"The meat, which is from a male lamb less than one year old, includes one-fifth lamb tail fat, an unctuous fat that keeps the kebab moist and delivers incredible flavour. The meat is always hand-cut with the most enormous sword-like knife called a zirh.” Maeve O'Meara, Food Safari Fire
In Turkey, every region, city and even village has its own kebab (or kebap) recipe, but Adana in the south-east is world-renowned. Its classic kebab is so revered it has achieved DOC status – the making and cooking of the kebab dictated by strict rules.
- 700 g (1 lb 9 oz) leg of lamb or lamb shoulder, boneless
- 200 g (7 oz) lamb fat (tail, bunting or kidney fat preferred)
- 1 red capsicum (bell pepper) or 2 red bullhorn peppers, cubed
- 2 tbsp hot paprika or cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 4 pita breads, for holding the skewer
- 200 g (7 oz) Greek-style yoghurt
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time 3-4 hours
If you are like us and prefer to chop your own lamb to make kebaps, then clean the leg of lamb or lamb shoulder and roughly cut into cubes. Then, using a zirh or a large knife, finely chop the lamb to a coarse mince together with the fat and capsicum. Alternatively, ask your butcher to roughly mince (ground) your choice of cut only once together with lamb fat, and then add the finely chopped capsicum. Mix in the hot paprika and salt.
Gently form into a round and rest in the refrigerator, covered, for 3–4 hours.
Remove the meat from the refrigerator and divide into four balls. Wet your hands and form the meat around four flat metal kebap skewers. Squash each ball around the skewer, pressing the mixture so it spreads 5 cm (2 in) from the top to 10 cm (4 in) from the bottom. Once all four skewers are firmly covered, put them back in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the barbecue hotplate or light the charcoal barbecue an hour before cooking, ensuring you are cooking on hot embers.
Cook 1 minute on one side, then turn over for the other. Repeat the process two to three times until the meat is cooked and the fat has stopped dripping.
Use the piece of pita bread as a mitten to grip the meat and pull it off the skewer. Serve with the pita bread, yoghurt, bulgur pilaf and iced purslane salad.
Recipe from Food Safari Fire by Maeve O'Meara (Hardie Grant, hbk, $55). Photography by Toufic Charabati.