BBQ, Grill, Oven, Tandoor...take your pick
“You get the kebabs, I’ll get the tea.”
That was the Friday mantra between the teenage trio, smoothed hair and faces pricked by the early years of shaving. My Uncle Abbu and his best friends Rocky and Samuel would descend on the Iranian run, Cafe George and order a round of finely minced Indian lamb seekh kebabs knitted together with green chillies, coriander, onion and a distinctive ‘George spice blend’ accompanied with shallow dishes of sweetened mint and coriander chutney. The boys would tuck in, to fuel their growing forms and slurp sweet milky tea from short stout glasses. Cafe George was always busy, you didn’t eat here because you were hungry, rather it awoke an epicurean desire in all who graced its threshold. One ate here because the food was exquisite and it was the place to be seen.
The kebab ritual always preceded the Friday matinee blockbuster at the Capitol Picture House, the finest cinema theatre in Karachi where the three would join queues parting with their crumpled rupee notes in exchange for a slice of Hollywood’s heroes, Jerry Lee Lewis, Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston and Burt Lancaster. Wide eyes feasted on the cinematic offering and the audience hung on the words of Silver Screen deities, life seemed so simple back then. Money was earned, contributed to the family coffers and the rest was spent on good times, the beneficiaries of which included visits to Cafe George gorging on long seekh kebabs, juicy, meaty and smooth textured with plenty of dipping chutney. Perhaps the reason why Abbu is so fond of these meat treats, is that they evoke a bygone era of carefree youthful years without the responsibility of adulthood, where food was truly life giving.
Serves at least 6...as a starter
- 1kg finely minced lamb
- 150g ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 6 green chillies, 3 deseeded
- 3 small onions, finely chopped
- 2 tsp of cumin seeds
- 2 tsp of fennel seeds
- Big bunch fresh coriander leaves
- 3 tsp garam masala
- 3tsp ground coriander
- Pinch of red chilli powder
- 4tbs gram flour
- 1 whisked egg
Using a blender blitz the onion, garlic, cumin and fennel seeds, ginger, chillies, and coriander leaves together until the combination is finely minced, looking green and shot through with onion. Whisk an egg and set aside. In a large mixing bowl massage the blended ingredients into the minced lamb, adding the garam masala, ground coriander, salt and red chilli powder. Squeeze the mix together and make sure it’s evenly spread, add in the flour and it’ll dry the combination a little. Now add the whisked egg as this will help cleave the ingredients together. Wrap the bowl in cling film and put in the fridge for 1 hour. Take up to 12+ soaked skewers, remove the marinated meat, coat your hands in a little oil (stops the meat sticking to them) and shape Churchillian sized cigars from the lamb around each skewer. They should have a firmish consistency to them.
Either BBQ, bake/grill or tandoor. Both methods are straightforward, if you BBQ make sure the coals are white hot and turn the kebabs regularly until they’ve taken a slightly crispy appearance. If you bake grill them, preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6 and bake for 12-15 minutes, in an oven proof tray, twisting them to baste on all sides. Brown under the grill on a medium heat for a few minutes until nicely bronzed. In a tandoor hang and twist frequently for around 10 minutes.
A recipe from the Urban Rajah's Curry Memoirs cookbook. Due for release in Spring 2013, from Headline Publishing.
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