Lamb Kebaps with Barbecued Salad

Sımıt Kebabi

Kebap restaurants in Turkey never buy lamb mince. They always make their own using leg and belly meat, and a mighty machete called a zırh. A kebap master will choose an apprentice by putting a piece of paper between the chopping board and the lamb and asking the candidate to mince the meat using only a zırh. If there are no cuts in the paper, the candidate gets the job.

With this kebap it’s important to use the finest bulgur, which is known in Gaziantep as simit. This is not to be confused with the sesame rings we discussed in the breakfast chapter. In Antep dialect, simit means the smallest grains of wheat that fit through a sieve. Their other name is elek altı, which means ‘under the sieve’.

This is a perfect dish for a barbecue, because the salad is char-grilled along with the meat.

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Ingredients

Lamb Kebaps

  • 90 g ( oz/½ cup) extra fine bulgur
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) minced (ground) lamb (about 30 per cent fat)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ½ onion

Salad Kebaps

  • 4 tomatoes
  • 4 shallots
  • 4 green bullhorn peppers (or 2 large green capsicums/peppers)
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (to make your own)
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon hot paprika
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (to make your own)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 piece pita bread, for holding the skewer

Method

Put the bulgur, salt, pepper, cumin and chilli flakes in a mixing bowl. Add 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) of hot water. Knead the mixture with wet hands for 1 minute. Finely chop the mint leaves and stir through the mixture.

If you’re using a charcoal grill, you should light it 1 hour before you want to cook. Burn the charcoal for at least 45 minutes and when the flames have died down, and the coals are glowing with a covering of white ash, the barbecue is ready. (If you’re using a gas barbecue, turn it on to medium heat about 5 minutes before you’re ready to cook.)

Put the lamb in a separate bowl. Finely grate the garlic and the onion, and add it to the mince. Add the bulgur mixture and knead with wet hands for 8 minutes, to make a smooth paste. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and rest for 30 minutes.

Using eight thick metal skewers (ideally 2 cm/¾ in. thick), divide the lamb and bulgur into four balls and squash each ball around a skewer, pressing the mixture so it spreads 5 cm (2 in) from the top to 10 cm (4 cm) from the bottom.

To make the salad, cut the tomatoes in half. Skin the shallots. Cut the bullhorn peppers in half. Push the salad pieces onto the four remaining skewers.

Place the eight kebaps on the charcoal grill or barbecue. Cook for 2 minutes, then when the meat on that side is seared, turn and cook the other side for 2 minutes. Turn again, and grill for another 2 minutes on each side. (The fat from the meat will drip on the charcoal and burn, but that smoke adds to the flavour.) Constantly check to see if the meat is at risk of falling off the skewer, and if so, turn it over. Take all the skewers off the heat.

Pull the salad ingredients off their skewers and pulse in a food processor to make a chunky purée. Add the pomegranate molasses, sweet paprika, hot paprika, tomato paste, salt and pepper, and stir.

Divide the salad mix onto four plates. Using the pita bread as a mitten, pull the kebaps off the skewers and place on top of the warm salad. Serve immediatley.