Have you had a chance to try the Kebab Houses – Kebapci – in Turkey? They appear in every corner and the smells, never ending array of mezzes and kebabs coming along are a feast to all senses, a must experience. Here are a few photos from the kebab scene at home, in Turkey, to help set the mood:
Usta, master of kebab makers, work around the Ocakbasi – an open fire grill – and prepare the melt-in-the mouth kebabs and grilled vegetables in front of you – so tempting!
As soon as you arrive to the Kebab Houses in Turkey, you are greeted with array of mezzes; Warm hummus with Turkish dried beef sausages or pastrami (dried cured beef) on top, Piyaz salad of onions, tomatoes, parsley with a sumac dressing , Gavurdagi Salata of tomatoes, onions and walnuts with pomegranate dressing and many more. They are delicious and you need to pace yourself, otherwise you will be full before the main event of kebabs arrives!
And here is the lahmacun ustas, masters at work; shaping their own dough and topping with ground lamb, onion, tomatoes and herbs. With a squeeze of lemon over the top, this is the ultimate lunch or a gorgeous starter for me. You can make your own lahmacun, Turkish thin pizza with ground lamb, tomatoes and onion topping at home; always a favorite with children and guests.
Iskender Kebab is another specialty offered at the Kebab Houses in Turkey; at the bottom is the freshly baked flat bread, topped with a spread of tomato sauce. Then comes the slices of doner kebab, topped with the melted butter sauce, with plain yoghurt by the side. This kebab is a feast, and one of the most popular in Turkey – who can resist?
Well, if you can’t make it to the Turkish kebab houses at the moment, the kebabs may come to you. They are easy to recreate in your home, delicious and look impressive. Children love them as well as the adults, so they are great for entertaining. I recently had a go at the lamb kebabs with pistachios in it. Turkey, especially the Gaziantep region grows some of the finest pistachios in the world and they are regarded as “Edible Emeralds”. The pistachios appear in sweet and savory dishes in Gaziantep cuisine from baklavas to kebabs. Please try the Gaziantep pistachios – Antep Fistigi; they are a must purchase whenever I am back home.
In Gaziantep, minced (ground meat) is prepared by chopping it into the size of wheat grains with a special curved bladed knife called Zirh. Hand chopped meat has a lot more flavor than machine minced (ground) meat, because the meat does not lose its texture. Check out how Vakkas Usta cuts the meat fresh for each kebab depending on the customers preferences, at IstanbulEats.
Having pistachio nuts in kebabs is a Southern Turkish specialty; I love the rich nutty flavor the pistachios add to the kebabs. The kebabs are wonderful when chargrilled in the barbecue in summer time, but equally delicious grilled in the oven. With flat breads as the base and roasted vegetables by the side, this succulent kebab is a real crowd pleaser, and can make any day special. The refreshing Yoghurt and cucumber dip, Cacik, complements the kebab very well.
Preparation time: 35 minutes Cooking time: 50 minutes
For the kebabs:
500 gr/1 ¼ lb/ 2 ¼ cups ground lamb (or a ground meat of your choice, or a mixture)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
60ml/4 tbsp pistachios, shelled
1 bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
5ml/1 tsp red pepper or paprika flakes; kirmizi biber
5ml/ 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
A bowl of water with a drizzle of olive oil to help shape the kebabs
For the roasted vegetables:
3 colorful bell peppers, deseeded and cut in thick slices lengthways and a few chilli peppers deseeded, OR 10-12 sweet and chilli small, colorful peppers, cut in half lengthways and deseeded
4 medium tomatoes, halved and cut in chunky slices
1 medium onion, halved and cut in chunky slices
45ml/ 3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large flat bread; pide, or 4 pitta bread, sliced lengthways
Yoghurt and cucumber dip with dried mint, Cacik (give link) to serve
Preheat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F
First roast your vegetables. Place the onion, peppers and tomatoes in a baking tray. Drizzle the olive oil over, season with salt and pepper. Give them all a good mix to make sure all the vegetables are coated with olive oil and the seasoning. Bake in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes, giving them a mix half way. I like to roast the vegetables rather than grilling, to save and enjoy all the wonderful juices of them over the flat bread.
While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the kebabs. First have a bowl of water, drizzled with olive oil ready aside, to knead and help shape the kebabs into the skewers. Pulse the shelled pistachios in a food processor a few times, until it is grainy. Place the ground lamb in a bowl, stir in the pistachios, chopped onions, garlic and parsley. Season with salt and ground pepper, add the red pepper / paprika flakes. Wet your hands in the water & olive oil mixture and knead well to a smooth paste. Cover and rest for about 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are roasted in the oven.
Once the vegetables chargrilled, take the tray out of the oven, cover and set aside (you may need to warm the vegetables before serving).
Put the grill into its highest setting and start shaping the kebabs. With the bowl of water & olive oil mixture by your side, take a handful of the meat mixture, and press it around grilling skewer into a shape of a flat sausage. Wet your hands with the water & olive oil mixture; this will help shaping the meat into the skewers, keep the meat moist and intact.
As soon as the kebabs are shaped, cook them under the grill/broiler for about 4 minutes or until they are golden and cooked through that side. Then place the sliced flat bread or pitta bread on a tray and put the tray under the grill, at the bottom of the kebabs. Turn the kebabs and cook for a further 3-4 minutes or until they are golden on the other side too. In the meantime, the flat breads will capture all the wonderful juices of the kebab.
Also at this stage place the roasted vegetables back to the oven to keep warm.
Once the kebabs are cooked, prepare your serving tray. Put the grilled, warm flat bread slices side by side on the tray. Place the kebab skewers in the middle and the roasted vegetables at each side, making sure their wonderful juice also make it to the tray. Serve this delicious kebab with the Yoghurt and cucumber dip, Cacik, by the side.
Wishing You All Joy, Peace & Health and Afiyet Olsun,