Persian Ground Lamb Kabab – Kabab Koobideh
We eat dinner as a family pretty much every night. It’s something that has always worked for us but Friday evenings are special. We have specifically set aside this evening for us and disconnect from the external world. It’s when we spend some quality time, have the best conversations, watch a movie, and mostly eat takeout. It’s the evening when I get a break from cooking but if it is a special dinner I do help in. Such family time is even more important now as our daughter is grown and has her own schedule, activities, and school. After some years we will only have time and memories but not our daughter when she moves away from us.
Last Tuesday was my wonderful husband’s birthday. As it was a working day we celebrated it on Friday. I made Koobideh kababs. It seems fitting that the man I married and fell in love later should deserve a special meal for the momentous occasion. Koobideh kababs are not your usual kebabs! They are moist and juicy strips of smokey grilled, seasoned ground lamb. These kababs are generally accompanied by a mound of Persian rice, grilled ripe tomatoes and some kind of yogurt dip. Since my husband does not like to eat carb in the evening, for him I made a summer vegetable medley of corn, kale , orange and red bell pepper. First, I sautéed the onion and garlic in olive oil, then added the vegetables, seasoned with salt, pepper, sumac, and it was done. The whole meal turned out great! My husband kept commenting on how good the food was and I was smiling from ear-to-ear.
Lamb is generally expensive and can be hard to find depending on where you are. I got mine from a local meat shop. Ground beef, goat or chicken can also be used or mixed in depending on what you prefer. This is the kind of kabab that needs meat with some fat on it. Koobideh is basically made with very few ingredients consisting of ground meat, grated onion, salt and pepper. Adding sumac, turmeric, saffron, herbs or any other ingredient is totally optional and depends on one’s individual tastes and preferences. I did use sumac and saffron in my recipe. Sumac is a wonderful middle eastern spice that is made by grinding up dried sumac berries. It’s deliciously tangy flavor is hard for me to give up. You can easily find Sumac in Middle Eastern and Canadian supermarkets. Saffron is hands down my favorite spice since I was a child. My mother always added it to special dishes prepared for celebrations. Its smell serves as a reminder of wonderful home cooked meals and good times spent together.
Below is a picture of my daughter helping her dad in grilling the kebabs. Our dog truffles, anxiously looking at them, hoping he might get something.
I have made these kebabs a couple of times and each time it has been well appreciated. But there are certain things you need to keep in mind for this recipe to be a success.
Here are my Quick Notes
- You need flat metal skewers. They hold the meat in place better. Mine were 1/2″ wide but traditionally the one inch skewers are used. If you don’t have skewers, you can use this recipe to make patties, and cook on stove top or in oven.
- The ground lamb meat mixture needs approx. 20% fat so that your mixture will stick to the skewers and not fall off.
- Make sure you squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the onions before adding them to the meat.
- The key to a good Koobideh kabab is in mixing. You should use your fingers to massage the kebab mix for a good 5-7 minutes. I find a stand mixer or a food processor very handy rather than mixing by hand.
- Let the meat mixture rest in the refrigerator for an hour or overnight. This makes it easier to shape, and the mince will adhere to the skewers better too.
- Keep a bowl of water handy to dip your hand into before handling the meat mixture. A moist hand will prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands too much.
- Scoop a handful of the meat mixture and slide it onto the middle of a flat skewer, patting it along the length of the skewer. The pressure has to be gently applied so that it thins itself over the skewer. Keep wetting your palm to make this process really easy. Ideally the size of these kebabs is 1 ” or a bit less in diameter and approx. 6″ in length.
- Rest the skewer on a cookie tray so that the ends of the skewer rest on the edges of the tray and the kebab is suspended in the middle. Repeat with the remaining mixture and skewers. Loosely cover the skewers and put them in the fridge for 1/2 an hour minimum to firm up.
- When you are ready to cook heat up the charcoal or gas grill to medium high and cook skewers on open flame. The meat should not touch the grill grates. Place bricks on both ends of the grill so that the skewers rest on the bricks. Turn them frequently to ensure they are cooked on all sides. If you cook one side all the way, the raw side will not be strong and the meat will fall off the skewer into fire. Also, it should not take more than 5 minutes to cook. Otherwise, the kebab will get dry. Gently pull the cooked kababs off the skewers with a piece of flat bread. Sprinkle with sumac.
Although this recipe takes some time, it is more than worth it in the end!
- 2 pound ground lamb
- 2 medium onion ( 1 1/4 cup grated and extra water removed)
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp. ground sumac +extra for sprinkling on top
- 3/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- Small pinch saffron soaked in 2 tbsp. water
- 1 cup Greek yogurt (For paleo friendly use coconut yogurt)
- 1/2 cup diced cucumber
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (mint and cilantro)
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 orange pepper, diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 1/4 cup corn kernels
- 1/2 bunch kale leaves, thinly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1/4 cup, chopped onion
- Salt, pepper and sumac to taste
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 3-4 firm roma tomatoes
- Salt to taste
- Soak saffron in 2 tbsp. warm water for 15 minutes.
- Put half of the meat mince in a bowl of a food processor, along with the onions, salt, garlic cloves, sumac, turmeric, pepper, saffron water and egg.
- Pulse for about a minute, until combined. Now add the remaining mince and pulse again. If the meat rides up the sides of the bowl, use a spatula to push it back down and pulse.
- Tip it into a bowl. Do a taste test. Pan fry a small patty sized piece of mince, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
- Cover the bowl with cling wrap and put into the refrigerator for at least an 1 hour or more if you can (The colder the meat the easier it will stick to the skewer).
- When you are ready to go, dampen your hands and take a fistful of the meat mixture – just a bit less than ½ cup and form into a ball.
- Mold it around and along the skewer, until it is evenly thick. Squeeze and shape the meat gently so that the meat sticks to the skewer.
- Press the meat between your thumb and index finger to make several indentations about 1 inch apart.
- Set aside the skewer on a shallow tray with raised sides or a baking dish, so the meat does not touch the surface of the pan.
- Repeat with the remaining mixture and skewers. You will have about 16 kebabs.
- Cover the skewered meat in cling wrap and refrigerate until firm, for about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make summer vegetable medley, heat olive oil in a pan. Add chopped onion and garlic, cook until slightly getting color on the edges. Add all the vegetables, cook until tender about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and sumac.
- To make yogurt dip, combine all the ingredients under yogurt dip, in a bowl and mix well.
- Set aside in the fridge for the flavors to mingle.
- To prepare the grilled tomatoes, trim off a thin slice from top and end. Cut the tomatoes in half. Thread tomato halves on skewers.
- Heat up the charcoal or gas grill to medium high. Once it is up to temperature, grill the tomatoes until softened a little. Sprinkle with salt.
- Then, place the meat skewers about 3-4" high above the grates of the grill, turning several times until done the way you like them.
- Remove from the heat. Gently pull the cooked kebabs off the skewers with a piece of flat bread, sprinkle with sumac.
- Serve the Kebab hot, along with the roasted tomatoes, Persian rice or gluten free naan, yogurt dip and vegetable medley. You can also serve the kebabs with vegetables and a dollop of yogurt sauce, in chapati wraps.