A Traditional Iraqi Recipe for Minced Lamb Kebabs with Flatbread and Yoghurt Sauce
In this post I will share my recipe for minced lamb/beef kebabs and in the next I will post the recipe for flatbread and yoghurt sauce. It’s a very easy recipe, once again the real effort is in the planning.
Recently, my lovely colleague and friend Dr Nisreen Booya was telling me about her childhood in Iraq, in the 1950’s and 60’s. Of course, food featured highly in her recollections. I was fascinated to hear about the history of Mosul cuisine, its origins and how Mesopotamia is thought to be seat of much of today’s Mediterranean food.
Although Mesopotamia is thought to be the home of the first cook book, Nisreen’s recipes were all of an oral tradition. When I asked her how much of a particular spice to put in she shrugged, replying that it was all about smell and flavour.
I’m not unused to this approach. My own mother regarded kitchen scales as something of an affectation, measuring everything by eye, smell and taste!
But as someone who has never smelt or tasted the flavours of Iraq, it has taken a bit of trial and error. I have been helped by the cookbook “The Iraqi Family Cookbook” by Kay Karim.
My first recipe is for kufta kebabs, simple yet delicious. The technical part of this dish lies in finding the mixture of spices, which I have done through trial and error. The word kufta refers to minced meat, either lamb or beef. Nisreen recommends using minced lamb as the main meat with a small amount of of minced beef. I did try this and it was a perfect combination. You could, however, use either all lamb or all beef.
The main spice used is allspice. I’d never used this spice before and once Nisreen told me about it I couldn’t wait to get to the shops and buy some to experiment with it. Now I love it.
Once you’ve made the mixture, which is extremely easy to do, you can shape it into either round patties or sausage shapes. Whatever shape you choose you must make sure that you cook the mincemeat very thoroughly. For that reason I favour thinner, sausage-like shapes. I cannot tell you exactly how long to cook your own kebabs, but I will say unless they are very tiny, it is unlikely they will be cooked under 15 minutes. Mine pictured here took about 17 minutes
When experimenting I pan-fried sausage shaped kebabs and cooked another batch in the oven. Strangely, although they were slightly more moist when pan-fried, they had more flavour cooked in the oven. The spices seemed stronger when cooked in the oven. Either way they are delicious.
I can give you the spice mix I have decided suits my palate, but I suggest you try out different combinations of the spices I recommend. I started with a spice mix suggested by Kay Karim, but adapted it, where I wanted, to suit my taste. I had all of these spices in my cupboard, apart from the allspice. Once the mix is made it can be stored in an airtight container and used as required.
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons ground allspice
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- I onion, chopped finely, preferably in food processor
- 500g Minced lamb, beef or a combination of both
- 3 tablespoons of flour
- 2 to 3 teaspoons of salt
- 3 teaspoons of spice mix
- 3 tablespoons of oil if frying
- ¼ teaspoon of sumac
- Pomegranate seeds and parsley to garnish
- Place onion in the food processor and add the mincemeat and process until onions are thoroughly mixed into mince and the mince is smooth in texture.
- Put mixture into a bowl and add flour, salt and spice mix and mix with hands until all the dry ingredients are completely incorporated.
- Shape as desired. If not using immediately, put them on a tray and place in the fridge until required.
- Fry or oven cook until they are completely cooked.
- Remove from cooking, place on paper towel and allow to rest for a few minutes, sprinkle with sumac.
- Serve on flat bread with salad, yoghurt dressing, garnished with parsley and pomegranate seeds.