The pistachio lamb kebabs I posted earlier has been a big hit and I have been experimenting a little more with these delicious treats. 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. Having pistachio nuts in kebabs is a Southern Turkish specialty; I love the rich nutty flavor the pistachios add to the kebabs. They kebabs are wonderful when chargrilled in summer time, but equally delicious grilled or baked 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.
This time, during my recent Turkish cookery class, I prepared the kebabs in cherry and tomato based sauce. Cooking meatballs in (especially) sour cherry sauce is a Gaziantep specialty. This way of incorporating meat & fruit dates back to the Ottoman, Persian and medieval Arab cookery. The sweet & sour combination of meat and visne (sour cherries) is just marvelous. You can get frozen cherries in most supermarkets when they are not in season. If you’d like a stronger cherry flavor, also try dried cherries, like dear Claire did after our cookery class. Apparently it was a delicious hit. I greatly look forward to trying out this recipe again when sour cherries are in season, in June-July time.
Preparation time: 35 minutes Cooking time: 60 minutes
For the kebabs:
500 gr/1 ¼ lb. / 2 ¼ cups ground lamb (or half and half with ground beef)
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;
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 cherry & tomato sauce:
1 onion, finely chopped
400gr/14oz can of chopped Italian tomatoes
½ tbsp. red pepper paste
400gr/14oz frozen cherries, stones removed
15ml/1 tbsp olive oil
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
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 the 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. 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 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).
Now start shaping the kebabs. With the bowl of water & olive oil mixture by your side, take a handful of the meat mixture, and make it into a shape of a flat sausage. Good tip; wet your hands with the water & olive oil mixture; this will help shaping the meat and keep the meat moist and intact.
As soon as the kebabs are shaped, you can cook them under the grill/broiler for about 6 -8 minutes, turning over half way until they are golden and cooked through that side (this method especially great for summer.) Alternatively, you can lay the kebabs side by side in a greased tray and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until they are cooked and chargrilled.
While the kebabs are cooking, prepare the cherry & tomato sauce. In a heavy pan, sauté the onions in olive oil for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the pepper paste, chopped tomatoes and cherries to the pan and combine well. Season with salt and ground pepper and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the sauce thickened.
While the sauce is simmering, place the sliced flat bread on a tray and put in the preheated oven (180 C/350 F) to warm up. Also at this stage place the roasted vegetables and kebabs back to the oven to keep warm.
How about serving the kebabs with this sautéed carrot & garlic yoghurt dip? This refreshing and mild dip complements the rich flavors of the pistachio kebabs beautifully.
I hope these recipes inspire you all; Afiyet Olsun,