Meat on skewers over fire, what is not to love?!
Kebabs, otherwise known as nuggets of pure joy, originate from either the Eastern Mediterranean region or the Middle East. Thanks to the Mongol and Ottoman Empires respectively, word of mouth and taste for these delicious grilled meat spread to Central Asia, eventually to the rest of the world.
Traditional kebabs are spiced and marinated cubes of lamb, but over the years people have adapted chicken, pork, fish, beef, and even vegetables. Over the years, us smart human folk have transformed the traditional kebab from its humble origins sizzling on a Persian soldier’s sword, to countless variations. Like a wonderful food rainbow!
Apparently people in the UK and parts of Europe love doner kebabs, which are sliced meat served in pita, and is considered to be the drunk food of choice after a night out. I personally applaud the people of Europe for realizing that nothing absorbs a large quantity of alcohol than meaty doner kebabs stuffed inside delicious fluffy pita. Good for you guys!
South Asians, my people, love kebabs! Growing up my lovely Bengali mother would make shami kebabs which were small patties made with tuna, spices, and mashed potato, dipped in egg white and fried in oil. OMG they tasted like little nuggets dropped from heaven! Note to self: call mom and ask her for the recipe.
You know that often rubbery souvlaki they serve at mall food courts? Yup, it’s a variation of a kebab but it’s probably best to avoid the food court version and try making your own at home, that way you can control the level of sodium and fat. Check out this tasty recipe from My Greek Dish for Lamb Souvlaki.
For Christmas, J (my boyfriend/lodger) gifted me a great cookbook called Olives, Lemons & Za’atar: The Best Middle Eastern Home Cooking by Rawia Bishara. Bishara is is the chef and owner of Tanoreen, the famed Brooklyn-based Middle Eastern restaurant, which has been praised by The New Yorker and ranked high on the Zagat guide.
Believe me when I say, it took every ounce of strength in me not to lick every page! I was in a constant state of drool-gasam. Particularly for this recipe for Chicken Kebabs, which I decided to adapt and modify and share with all you lovely people.
The best thing about this kebab recipe is that you can totally marinate it ahead of time and grill them later for a quick weeknight dinner, and serve over some simple garden salad.
Prep Time | at least 3 hours (marinating time) Cook Time | 10-12 minutes Yield | 9 kebabs
2 tsp ground allspice
2 tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp paprika
¼ cup greek yogurt
Juice of half a lemon
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2-3 bonless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into equal sized chunks
Handful of whole grape tomatoes (optional)
½ yellow or red onion, cut into large chunks
6-9 bamboo skewers
1. In a large bowl, combine the spices together with yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil and crushed garlic and mix well. Add the chicken and stir to coat with the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight (but who wants to wait that long ammiright???)
2. Soak the skewers in some water for 30 minutes before cooking, this will prevent them from burning when on the grill. But this step is not really necessary if you’re using a grill pan, like I did. Just as an aside, the bamboo skewers that I had were 12” or 30.5 cm, which were to big for the grill pan, so I trimmed them to the length I wanted.
3. Divide the chicken evenly among the skewers, threading the pieces onto them so that they are fairly tightly packed. OR you can alternate chicken pieces with a whole grap tomato and slices of onion, just make sure to pack them up to the tip of the skewer. OR have the tomatoes and onions on separate skewers
This is the choose your adventure part:
Option 1 – prepare a gas or charcoal grill, should be moderately hot
Option 2 – heat a grill pan over medium high heat
4. Make sure to turn the kebabs 3 to 4 times until the chicken is cooked through and there are nice grill marks on all sides (about 10-15 minutes).
5. Serve with Arabic bread/pita, pickles (for garnish), chopped lettuce or whatever the heck you like cuz it doesn’t matter when you have fresh grilled meat in front of you.