For lots of Westerners, I suspect, the kebab is known as street food, discovered in New York or while studying abroad in Western Europe, where it's possible to travel from Dublin to Düsseldorf and sample all different styles of meat, filling, and bread (some better than others). That's how it was for me, anyway, and I have fond memories. So I was a little unsure how this recipe from Jamie Oliver would turn out, something created in my own kitchen. How could it compete with huge spit-roasted cones of meat and authentic recipes and wonderful memories?
I was first drawn by the ingredients list for the meat mixture: ground lamb stuffed with pistachios, lemon zest, and familiar spices like cumin. It sounded complex and textural, and the rest of the recipe was as simple as tossing some herbs and greens with lemon juice and thinly sliced red onion. Coincidentally, and old friend who traveled around Europe with me, a passionate kebab eater, was in town. So I decided to cook them and quietly let him serve as the litmus test. I'm happy to report the recipe passed easily: He ate it with great relish.
Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Pistachio
- 1 pound lamb shoulder, cut into chunks, or the same of ground lamb
- 2 heaped tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 level tablespoon ground cumin
- 1/4 cup shelled pistachio nuts
- 1 cup or so mixed salad leaves, torn into pieces
- 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 red onion, peeled and very finely sliced
- 1 lemon, zest finely grated
- Small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked
- Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- 4 large flatbreads or tortilla wraps
- 4 heaped tablespoons thick yogurt
Combine the meat, lemon zest, pistachios, most of the thyme, chili, and cumin, plus a hefty pinch of salt and pepper into a food processor, and pulse the meat until it looks like ground. If the meat is already ground, pulse only the pistachios until broken into pieces, then mix them into the meat with the rest of the spices. Divide the meat into 4 pieces and press them around grilling skewers into logs for grilling.
In a large bowl, combine the red onion with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss the greens, mint leaves, and parsley leaves on top, but do not toss to mix. The red onion will mellow and slightly pickle in the lemon juice in the meantime.
Cook the kebabs on a cast iron grill pan, under a broiler, or on a grill until golden and cooked through. Near the end of cooking, warm the flatbread with the meat for 30 seconds or so.
While the meat is resting momentarily, drizzle the greens and herbs with olive oil. Toss with the red onions in the bottom of the bowl and divide among the warmed flatbreads. Top with the meat, as logs or broken up into pieces, then top with the yogurt and some of the reserved spices. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired.