We have succulent souvlaki and unrivalled pita gyros associated with Greece, but, what is the kebab that is associated with Turkey?
Unlike the pita gyros or souvlaki, which is usually made with chicken or pork, a kebab needs a very good lamb to be properly cut, then skewered and cooked on a well-heated fire.
Proper grilled kebabs require good quality meat.
In Gaziantep, southeast Turkey, the meat for kebab comes from an indigenous breed of sheep called halik.
The animals of the area graze freely in the rich spring grass, which is why their meat acquires a wonderful taste and is of high quality.
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These are animals with short legs, short tail and white wool.
Ideally, you prefer meat derived from young male sheep that are less than 18 months old.
Equally important is the cutting of the meat.
The best pieces of the animal, such as the fillet, are never cut into cubes or finely chopped, but are cooked as is.
The kebab is prepared on a cutting surface made of walnut or honey.
First the fibers and tendons are removed.
Then, the meat is chopped to the size of a grain of wheat with the special zirh chopping knife, which has a curved blade.
This way it retains much more flavor than a meat that has been minced at least once.
The next step is salting and shaping by hand on wide flat metal skewers.
The experts know the art well and take care to spread the meat around the spit to the right length, so that it does not stay out of the fire and comes out uncooked.
Grilling is an equally important part because it requires skill to bring out all the flavor of the kebab. It needs a grayish, fiery, well-digested embers to cook evenly.
On the other hand, for kebabs with eggplant, onion and garlic, the embers will need to be a little more lively in order for the vegetables to cook properly.
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The skewers must be turned in the same direction each time so that the meat is cooked evenly without burning.
Rectangular skewers are used for diced meat kebabs, but wide flat metal skewers are suitable for chopped meat.
Roasting kebab, so that the meat retains all its juices without burning, is what we would call an art form in Gaziantep.
Kebab recipe with minced meat
Cutting the meat with the special knife requires skill. It’s not a simple matter and it is not easy to learn.
Grilling requires skill so that the meat does not fall off the metal skewers where it is passed.
Hand-cut meat wants wide flat metal skewers instead of round metal ones for better grip.
Remember to turn the kebabs with gentle movements.
When the weather is hot it helps to put them in the fridge for 20΄-30΄ before grilling.
Ingredients for 5-6 people:
- 600 gr. lean meat
- 300 gr. fat
- 100 gr. tail fat
- 1 + 1/2 tsp. sweet salt
We prepare the meat as described in the introduction – cutting it with a knife, or because it is difficult, we ask the butcher to prepare it for us.
As this is not common in our Greece either, ask the butcher to cut it into thick minced meat, passing it once through the machine and after first cleaning it well of tendons and fibers.
Dip your hands in cold water with ice cubes, then take in your hand a small amount of minced meat the size of a lemon (70-75 gr.)
And press it around a metal spit, spreading it and forming a kebab about 15 cm long and thickness 2-3 cm.
Press lightly with your fingers and palm to stabilize the meat on the spit.
Before transferring them to the grill, turn the skewers upside down so that the meat does not fall.
Grill on well-heated charcoal, turning them at intervals.
Place the kebabs on pita bread, sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper and pink salt and garnish with sliced onion mixed with coarsely chopped parsley.
Nana Darioti is a writer for Olive Magazine.