What Is Kebab And Where Does It Come From?

Kebab is an elongated “cutlet” of minced meat fried on a skewer. Its main difference from other kebabs is the preparation of meat. It is not sliced or shredded, but minced and skewered, then roasted.

Kebab, cooked with minced meat (minced meat), is an absolutely common, regional dish for many countries – from the Balkan Peninsula to Iran. There is, for example, Persian Koobideh Kebab (kabab koobideh). Koobideh comes from the Persian word koobideh, meaning ‘clapping/chopping’. It has the most direct relevance to the style of preparation of meat for such a kebab. In the past, meat (lamb and/or beef) was placed on a flat rock and beaten with a wooden hammer. Later it was chopped with knives. This dish is maximally similar to known Kebab – both in form and in content. Onions are also added to the meat for Koobideh Kebab.  

You can make kebab even at home. Of course, kebabs won’t be as flavourful as over an open fire but you can make up for it with sauces like Greek tzatziki or Indian curry paste. Kebabs go well with rice, roasted tomatoes and sweet peppers, leafy lettuce and tasty bread/cakes.

What to make kebab with

Meat. The flesh of lamb, in principle, can be cut from anywhere – from the shoulder blade, and even, in poverty, from the neck. But the easiest (and ultimately cheapest) is lamb’s hind leg. You’ll need at least 2.5kg of lamb flesh for a company of 10 people.

Fat. Take not sheep fat but fat of sheep’s tail. It will give the lulas the magical flavor without which lulas are not lulas. If lamb is completely lean, the fat of the sheep’s tail should be not less than 20 % of meat weight (but also not more than 30 %), that is 200-300 grams of fat for 1 kg of flesh. If the lamb is fatty, you should consider “the area”.

Onions and herbs. For 1 kg of meat you need 1 medium onion. Onions should be chopped with a knife, not minced or minced through a mincer – otherwise, onions will drip with juice, and we need it not in the cooking stage, but during grilling. The same goes for the greens. A small bunch of coriander per 1-1.5 kg of meat is enough. Just do not go too much on herbs!

Spices and herbs. As we know, inhabitants of Caucasus prefer “pure” lulas, only with salt and black pepper. For 1 kg of force-meat one should have not less than 0. 5 tsp. salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. In Moscow you also should add ground cumin, coriander and even sumac powder for sourness. In our opinion, it’s better to serve sumac powder separately so that everyone can sprinkle lulas by himself.

How to make the perfect “minced meat” for kebabs

Chop only! Don’t use mincers, blenders or food processors – that’s our firm and time-tested conviction. Be sure to chop meat with heavy knives, hatchets, cleavers, cleavers. They should be moderately wide, with a heavy handle.

Take a board to match the knives – thick, large and heavy. Before using it, grease it with mutton fat, so that splinters don’t fly.

Put pieces of meat and start “with two hands” rhythmically, but without bravery (otherwise you will cut through the board) to hit it with cleaver-knives. From time to time, turn the board or the meat by 45°. Or turn the whole mass of meat upside down. You should get a real mince – just don’t get carried away and turn it into a mashed potato for dumplings. All the pieces of meat should still be tangible.

It is better not to chop the fat but to chop it very finely, pre-cooled or even slightly frosted. After everything is chopped, the meat and fat of course should be mixed, salted and peppered.

When minced meat for lulas is ready, it should be chopped.

Mix the minced meat with all the additives and knead thoroughly. The longer you work with the filling, the more malleable it becomes and the less likely it is to fall off the skewer. To be sure, beat the mince off. To do this, lift the lump of minced meat about thirty to forty centimetres above the work surface and drop it with force. Scrape it back into the lump – and toss again. When the minced meat lump stops bouncing off in different directions, you can leave it alone.

Put it in a bowl, cover the prepared minced meat with cling film or foil with a few holes and put it in the fridge for 30-40 minutes to let it harden and set a little.

How to make perfect kebabs

You must have plenty of charcoal. They must be hot. They should stop flashing in flames, but they shouldn’t go completely grey either. Skewers should be flat – and the wider the better. The lulas will fry faster and it’s easier to skewer.

Put skewers and minced meat in front of you, put a big bowl with hot water that you can tolerate with your hands. Warm your hands in water so that the fat does not stick, take a piece of force-meat about the size of a tennis ball and make a cutlet of a little oblong shape. You pierce it with a skewer and wet your hands and begin to disperse it on a skewer. Work fast and gently, so as not to pump air inside. For the lulas to cook better, you can make the surface a little wavy. Tightly seal the edges of the lulas by sticking the minced meat to the place where the skewer comes out. When a few skewers are ready, place them on the coals.

At first you can even rake the coals to the centre of the grill so that the even, juicy crust will bake immediately – but for this you have to turn the lulas. Then you can rake the coals and continue to grill (turn, turn, don’t be lazy!) to the desired degree of searing. Preferably full, because there’s too much fat. But you can’t overcook it either. Fry it until it’s nicely browned, then serve it right away.

What if there is no fire but you have a cooker?

If you cook kebab in a city flat, use bamboo skewers instead of skewers, pre-soaked in water (for 30-40 minutes), so they don’t burn. Prepare minced meat as it was told above, make kebabs, and at the same time, heat the oven with the grill on maximum temperature. Place the lulas on a foil-lined rack and place them as close to the grill as possible. After 2 minutes, turn it over. After another 2 minutes, move the rack lower and reduce the temperature to 150-160 °C. Kebab lulas are usually ready in 10-12 minutes in the oven.

To cook kebabs in a pan, you will need a very heavy pan with a thick bottom, preferably a fluted one. Cook everything outside and open fire. Thread minced minced meat onto bamboo skewers and fry in a well heated frying pan. Maximum heat at first while the crust is crisping up. Turn frequently afterwards on a lower medium heat. The kebabs will be ready in 8-9 minutes.

Check out our Classic Lamb Kebab recipe

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