Lamb Skewers

Kebabeh Sikhi

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    6

Appears in

Parwana

Parwana

By Durkhanai Ayubi

Published 2020

  • About

While the type of kebab many people associate with Afghan cuisine is lamb or chicken threaded onto skewers and cooked over coals, there are in fact a number of different ways to prepare kebabs, as you will see throughout this chapter.

Some kebabs, such as kebabeh sikhi, are cooked over hot coals, some are cooked along with a selection of vegetables and spices, while others are shaped into round or oblong patties and fried. That said, all kebabs are commonly enjoyed with an array of chutneys, relishes, vegetables and fresh, hot naans.

This recipe is for skewered lamb kebabs cooked over charcoal, the type my grandfather would make with meat from the qurbani, the animal sacrifice made for Eid al-Fitr. My mother recalls that during Eid, the celebration that follows Ramadan, the month of fasting observed by Muslims, her father would, after distributing meat to the needy, relatives and friends, set some aside to make these kebabs for his family.

She remembers her father preparing the meat outdoors, skewering pieces to cook over hot coals in the garden. She remembers the sharp but warm aroma of the spices and meat crackling together and fusing with the scent of the coals, luring all the children out to take part. The joy of food for her father, she says, stemmed not only from melding ingredients and flavours, but also from his belief in the nurturing power of food, and how it became amplified when people came together to eat among the rows of lilacs, roses and poplars so lovingly cultivated in his garden.

Begin preparing this dish the day before you would like to serve it, to marinate the meat and soak wooden skewers, if you’re using them, in water. Soaking the skewers prevents them from burning.

Ingredients

  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 fresh long red chillies, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) diced lamb leg
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower oil
  • Naan flatbread, lime wedges and thinly sliced red onion, to serve

Method

Blend the onion, chilli, garlic and 125 ml (½ cup) water to a fine pulp in a food processor. Lay a piece of muslin (cheesecloth) over the top of a large bowl and strain the mixture through it, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible, and discarding the solids. Add the lamb to the strained marinade in the bowl, then add the coriander, tablespoons salt, 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper and the oil. Mix well to combine and coat the meat, cover and marinate in the fridge overnight.

When you are ready to cook the kebabeh sikhi, start by preparing the coals, to give them enough time to reach the right heat; the coals should be evenly glowing orange before you begin cooking. This type of kebab is best grilled on a charcoal barbecue.

Thread the marinated lamb pieces closely onto metal or pre-soaked wooden skewers, leaving little space between each piece. Place them on the grill over the coals and turn occasionally for 7 minutes, or until both sides are evenly cooked. Be careful not to let the meat dry out or become too crisp on the outside through overcooking. Test a piece of lamb to ensure it’s cooked through but tender.

Serve with naan flatbread, lime wedges and thinly sliced red onion and fresh herbs for brightness and crunch. Add some chutney on the side for a burst of acidity and heat.