These Syrian-inspired lamb mince kebabs make an absolutely superb dish for alfresco dining on hot summer evenings. They can be served as part of a mezze selection with perhaps humus and a fatoush salad (as pictured right, find the recipe here) or in toasted pitta breads with a Greek salad, the possibilities are endless for this versatile dish.
Providing that you have at your disposal lean lamb mince, these beauties are surprisingly simple to whip up for hungry dinner guests. The garlic and dill yogurt is a lovely, fresh accompaniment to the spiced meat and compliments the Aleppo chili sauce, which I confess is a real tongue tingler.
Syrian kebabs (makes 6)
500g lean minced lamb
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley
a handful of fresh corriander
½ tsp black peppercorns (crushed)
1 tsp cumin powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp paprika picante
1 tsp of dried ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp of cayenne pepper
Wooden skewers (soaked for 1 hr before grilling)
1 Aluminium Grill tray for BBQ (If deemed necessary - note instructions)
Cucumber and garlic yogurt
1 large cucumber, coarsely grated
500ml Greek yogurt
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
1 20g packet of dill, stalks and leaves finely chopped
sea salt flakes and black pepper for seasoning
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling purposes
kitchen towel and strainer for soaking up excess water from cucumber
Aleppo chili sauce
5 large plum tomatoes, chopped finely
3 red chili peppers, grilled until blackened on grill
3 garlic cloves, crushed
50ml of virgin olive oil
100ml of red wine vinegar
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together your lamb mince, onion, garlic, herbs and spices. Blitz the mixture in the food processor or with a hand-held mixer to ensure it is smooth, breaking down any larger pieces of onion or herbs. Place the mixture in the fridge for at least 20 mins, maximum an hour, before attempting to mold them. This time is essential as the cold guarantees the mixture will stick together and therefore there is no need to add a binding agent, such as egg.
Next, begin preparing the cucumber, garlic and dill yogurt. Use kitchen towel to squeeze out as much water as you can from the grated cucumber, as the water will negatively effect the yogurt's consistency. Mix the cucumber and crushed garlic into the yogurt, stirring thoroughly then add the chopped dill and mix well. I usually add a sprinkle of dill at a time, since it is quite a strong, overpowering flavor. Once done, place your yogurt in the fridge to keep it cool.
Remove your kebab mixture from the fridge and with your hands mold small kebabs, by rolling and patting. Slide each oval-shaped kebab onto a skewer ready to be cooked on the grill.
For those of us who aren't experienced cooking on the BBQ (myself included) using a self-contained aluminium grill tray (with holes) makes life a lot easier. Given that the chili peppers in particular and the kebabs, can frustratingly fall into the bottom of the grill where they are irretrievable and will undoubtedly burn. These trays can be purchased at supermarkets and food stores.
Heat your grill or barbecue to the required temperature, and place the chili peppers on it for cooking. Keep turning the chill peppers until they begin to soften and the skin blackens, then remove them from the grill.
Once cool, place the peppers on a chopping board and remove the stalks. Then blitz the peppers with the garlic and tomatoes in the food processor until smooth, adding the vinegar and oil. Your Aleppo chili sauce is now ready.
Place the kebab skewers onto the grill or your tray, turning them occasionally until they are cooked and a toasted, brown on either side. If in doubt, there's no harm slicing one in half to check they are cooked all the way through.
Remove the kebabs from the grill and serve them in a large bowl, accompanied by your cucumber, garlic and dill yogurt as well as your Aleppo chili sauce.
Serve with warm pitta breads or flat-breads (these can be toasted on the grill also) and a Greek salad for example (chopped cucumber, sliced red onion, sliced cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, black olives with an olive oil, lemon and wholegrain mustard dressing).