Lamb kebabs with eggplant & Turkish chilli
This dish comes out of a tradition from central Asia. The meat changes from country to country, as does the preparation. Sometimes it is minced and shaped onto sticks. More often it is cut into chunks and skewered.
A key flavour that makes a kebab a kebab is the coals it is cooked on. The wood infuses the meat with its greatest character. The concept of dicing the meat into two-centimetre cubes means there is more surface to take on the flavour of the coals and also of the marinade.
I’ve used lamb leg for this recipe, because I like the leanness of the meat. But really there are no rules. All I would say is to always work a day ahead: there’s no point marinating for half an hour.
I always add a small amount of salt to a marinade, not only to gently season the meat, but also to draw out some moisture. A little salt seems to bring the whole thing together.
I’ve paired this dish with eggplant, which is how it is often served in Turkey. For me, I always like to cook eggplants over coals, so it seems a waste to have the coals burning and not use them.
The eggplant recipe here is quite different. The base is a bechamel sauce, which gives the eggplant more of a structure and body and makes it less dip-like. If you are a regular reader of this page, you will know this is important to me. I hate dips.
2014 Naked Run Hill 5 shiraz cabernet, Clare Valley ($25) – Liam O’Brien, sommelier for Cutler & Co and Marion wine bar.
- 12 x 20cm metal skewers
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1kg boned lamb leg cut into 3cm cubes
- 3 small eggplants
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp flour
- 100ml milk
- 100g crumbled Bulgarian fetta
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- bunch of flat leaf parsley, picked and washed
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Combine olive oil, sea salt, ground black pepper and paprika in a bowl. Add the lamb to the spices and coat well. Cover the bowl and leave to marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
- When you wish to serve the lamb, light a barbecue. Prick the skin of each eggplant a few times and grill over the fire until the skin becomes charred and smoky and the flesh is soft and creamy.
- Transfer the eggplants to a bowl and cover with cling wrap to rest for 20 minutes. Peel off the charred skin and discard. Reserve the juices that come out of the eggplant, and chop the flesh.
- Meanwhile, melt a tablespoon of butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and cook over a low heat for two to three minutes (it should start to smell like fresh-baked pastry). Add the milk to the pan in three stages, allowing the mixture to thicken after each addition and whisking all the while. Add the reserved eggplant juice and continue to cook on a low heat for one minute. Add the chopped eggplant, fetta and lemon juice.
- Skewer the lamb with six pieces on each skewer. Drizzle the kebabs with a little olive oil and grill on the hot barbecue to medium.
- Dress the parsley leaves with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Serve with the lamb kebabs alongside the eggplant. Add a good pinch of Turkish chilli to each plate.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 16, 2017 as "Skewered perception".
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