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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 July 2019 at 07:34

Back in the 1960’s, Shish Kebab became all the rage in America. Seems like there wasn’t a backyard cookout that didn’t include some version of it. 

 Shish Kebab, and its variant spellings, was used generically by many backyard cooks. The base idea was to alternate an animal protein with other ingredients. Onions were always part of the string. But you’d find “shish kebab” that included tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, bell peppers….even green beans. Each cook had his own special marinade and dipping sauce. 

Frankly, I never liked the idea. Fun, perhaps. But, when you string together meat and assorted veggies, the ingredients rarely cook at the same time. So some part of the dish just wasn’t cooked right.

What Shish Kebab did do, however, was open American eyes to food cooked on a stick. While food cooked that way probably goes back to Neolithic times, impaling a hot-dog on the end of a stick was as far as Americans went, until the Shish Kebab fad raged.   

 As the “food revolution” took hold, the Shish Kebab fad prepared us for the discovery that many cultures have versions of kebabs; often many variations in the same culture.  This is especially true of the countries found in the Mid-East and environs. The region Sabrina Ghayour has dubbed “Persiana.”

Kababs (to use the Persian spelling) are indigenous to that region. They are common as street food, and just as likely to be cooked at home and in restaurants.  As we became more familiar, and acceptant, of global foods, we learned how diverse kababs could be, in terms of ingredients and flavors. More to the point: We discovered that in the homelands of kababs, notably Turkey and Persia, there were significant differences between them and the ubiquitous shish kebab. Among the techniques to keep in mind:

1. Do not mix ingredients, except as flavorings. If you want the meat accompanied by other ingredients, use separate skewers for each one. Thus, you might have one skewer with lamb chunks, another that is nothing but small onions, still a third filled with cherry tomatoes. By doing that, you control the cook time on each ingredient.  In addition, this makes a nicer presentation.

2. Eschew those thin, wire-like skewers. They do not hold the products properly, and the food is likely to spin and twist on them, producing some that is not cooked all the way through, and some that is burned, or near to it.

     Throughout Persiana, skewers are flat. This assures that the food doesn’t spin on them when being turned. Depending on the ingredient, skewer width ranges from a quarter inch up to a full inch, with the wider ones usually being used for meat.

     If you’re going to cook kababs at all often, it pays to invest in flat skewers. The longer the better.  Sure, 23” sounds like a lot of metal, particularly when the actual kabab is only five or six inches long.  But you want skewers that are long enough to bridge the sides of your grill.

     There are exceptions to this. Street vendors do use round wooden skewers. But keep in mind they are giving them away with the food, so there is a cost element.  And, when you cook as many of them as they do, you learn how to control the spin factor.

3. Traditional kababs are cooked quickly, over high heat. Rather than being put on a grate, the skewers actually bridge the grill, and sit barely over the level of the coals. Because of this, they are turned frequently until cooked through. That is, if it takes, say, six minutes altogether, the kababs might sit over the heat only a minute (or even less), before being turned, rather than being cooked three minutes per side.

     Although generally true, this is especially important when using ground meats. If you leave them over the heat for half the cooking time, turning them can become a problem, because the meat isn’t set on one side, and tends to fall apart.

 4. All that said, keep in mind that kabab does not mean cooked on a stick, although that is the most common method. Definitionally, kabab refers to food that is cooked with dry heat, and has no liquid added. So, when looking at the foods of Persiana, you will find dishes, called kababs, which are cooked in the oven, or on the range top in a vessel, as well.

5. As a general rule, due to their cooking method, kababs should be served right off the grill. While they can be kept warm, they suffer from it. And, given their quick cooking time, serving them that way should not present a problem. Just have everything else ready to go.

 Despite #4, when we hear the word “kabab” we think of skewered foods.  So that’s what we’ll look at here, confining them to some of those found in Persia.

 Recently, Gracoman had posted a recipe and photo spread on his experience with chicken koobideh kebab. If you haven’t seen it, you should take a look. The recipe, itself, is a good one. Plus it serves as a great tutorial on making kababs using ground meat. You can find it here:

For another take on using ground meat for kababs, here is one using lamb:


(Ground Lamb Kababs)


For kabab:            

2 lb twice-ground lamb or beef or half of each

2 tsp sea salt         

2 tsp black pepper

¼ tsp saffron in 1 tbls rose water                                           

2 tbls sumac

½ tsp baking soda

2 med onions, grated

2 garlic cloves, grated                                                            

Zest of one lime

For the baste:       

½ cup salted butter or olive oil                                              

1 tsp lime juice

Alternate baste:  Heat together 1 tbls pomegranate molasses, 1 tsp thyme, ½ tsp salt, and ½ cup olive oil.

  Mix all the kabab ingredients in a bowl, kneading with hands for about 5 minutes. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours, so mixture tightens up.

 a high, hot, charcoal fire.

 meat into equal lumps, about the size of small oranges. With damp hands, shape each into a 5-inch long sausage, and mold onto a wide, flat skewer. Pinch the two ends to firmly attach meat to skewers. Arrange on a baking sheet, separated from each other. Cover and keep in the fridge. 

 the baste, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the lime juice. Keep warm.

Arrange the skewers on the fire 3 inches above the coals. After a few seconds, turn the meat gently to help it attach to the skewers and to prevent it from falling off.  Grill the meat for 3 to 5 minutes, turning frequently. Baste just before removing from the fire. Avoid overcooking!

Slide meat onto lavash or pita just before serving. Sprinkle with sumac and lime juice to taste.

As good as they are, ground-meat kababs are, proportionally, the least common of them. Most are made with chunks of meat, such as:


(Caspian-Style Sweet & Sour Chicken Kababs)


4 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut in 3-inch pieces


1 large onion, quartered                                                        

1 cup walnuts

1 tbls basil leaves 

1 tbls mint leaves

1 ½ cups pomegranate juice                                                  

2 tbls lime juice

¼ cup olive oil     

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

For glaze:             

1 tbls pomegranate molasses                                                 

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp black pepper                                                                

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (op)

1 tsp golpar          

¼ cup oil, butter, or ghee

Put chicken in a non-reactive container.

Combine all marinade ingredients in a food processor and pulse to grind. Pour over the chicken, toss, and marinate for at least 24 hours or up to 3 days in the fridge.

In a saucepan, combine glaze ingredients and keep warm on very low heat until ready to use. Prepare a very hot grill.

Thread 4-5 chicken pieces onto each skewer, leaving at least 2 inches free at the top.  Place the skewers on the grill and cook 1-2 minutes per side, turning frequently. The chicken should be seared on the outside and juicy on the inside. Baste both sides immediately with the glaze.

As noted above, seafood can make incredible kababs. Just be sure and watch your cooking time; even for kababs they cook very quickly. If you can’t find bitter orange juice, you can make a reasonable facsimile by mixing regular orange juice and lime juice in a 3:1 ration. In this case, that works perfectly with ¾ cup OJ, and ¼ cup lime juice.


(Fish Kababs with Bitter Orange)


thick skinless swordfish or salmon filets, in 2” cubes

For marinade:      

  2 onions, grated                                       

5 garlic cloves, minced

1/2, butter, or ghee                         

1 cup bitter orange juice* or  pomegranage juicev                           

1 tsp grape molasses                                     

1 tsp sea salt                                            

½ tsp black pepper

1 tsp p golpar

Rinse fish and pat dry. Put the cubes in a non-reactive container and add all the marinade ingredients. Toss well, cover, and marinate for at least 2 hours or up to 8 hours in the fridge.

Preheat the grill and slide fish cubes onto skewers. Grill the fish until cooked through, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Finally, we have a kabab that gets cooked in a pot, as mentioned above. But it still uses skewers, for effect and flavor.  Unfortunately, the skewers used in the actual recipe are branches cut from a fig tree. Good luck with that one! But, because they do serve as portion control, I used small bamboo skewers.

Be sure and use the lowest heat you can. And monitor it as it cooks, because too much heat can cause the onions to burn.


(Shirazi-Style Pan Cooked Lamb Kabab(

2 lbs boned leg of lamb cut in 2-inch cubes

5-6 fig branches (or wood skewers) short enough to fit your cooking pan

½ cup oil, butter, or ghee

2 medium onions in thin rings

1 tbls sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

Zest of two limes

½ tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbls rose water or hot water

4 garlic cloves, chopped

½ tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste

½ tsp grape molasses or sugar

4 kifir lime leaves, crushed (or sub 1 tsp ground dried lime)

2 large tomatoes, peeled and sliced

1 tsp ground cardamom

For garnish:

5 fig leaves, washed (or just use lavash or other flat bread)

Juice of one lime

1 cup plain yogurt, drained

Bunch fresh basil

Bunch of spring onions, chopped

Rinse the lamb, drain, and pat dry.  Thread each fig branch or skewer with 5 pieces of lamb and set aside.

Grease a wide, shallow pan with ¼ cup of the oil. Arrange the onions rings in a layer in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few drops of the saffron/rose water.

Put the kababs skewers side-by-side on top of the onion rings and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper, the balance of the saffron water, lime zest, garlic, red pepper flakes, rape molasses, cardamom, and lime leaves. Arrange the tomato slices on top, Sprinkle with the rest of the salt and pepper, and drizzle with the rest of the oil.

Cover tightly and cook over low heat for 2 ½-3 hours, or until lamb is tender. Adjust seasoning. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Line a serving platter with fig leaves of bread and arrange skewers on top. Pour the pan juices over the kababs. Sprinkle with the chopped onion and basil, and drizzle with fresh lime juice

But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 August 2019 at 11:24

I’m going to wrap up this exploration with an assortment of Persian dishes that have two things in common. First, they don’t fit into categories, as all the others, so far, have done. And, second, they’re dishes we’ve tried and enjoyed; and will certainly do so again.


(Fresh Cheese)


Although I especially enjoy this as a breakfast cheese, it’s good anytime.  I found the use of lime juice as the coagulating agent to be particularly interesting.

     Similar to feta, it’s not quite as crumbly, and lacks the high salt content of that popular cheese.


2 quarts whole milk                                                                

½ cup lime juice

2 tbls sea salt (optional)                                                         

1 cup plain yogurt

2 tsp nigella or cumin seeds, or, ¼ cup thyme or mint leaves, chopped

½ tsp sea salt        

1 tbls plain yogurt


Line a strainer with three layers of cheesecloth and place it in a large container.


Pour the milk into a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the lime juice and salt. Stir once. Add the yogurt and stir again. Boil over medium heat 3-5 minutes until milk turns yellowish and curds appear.


Remove pot from heat and let sit 15 minutes. Add the nigella seeds or other flavorings, and immediately pour the milk mixture into the cheesecloth. Allow to drain several minutes. Hold the ends of the cheesecloth bundle and tightly tie together to enclose the cheese.


Put the cheese bundle in the center of the strainer and place a heave weight on top of the bundle. Let stand for about 2 hours to get rid of excess moisture and let the cheese set.


Remove the cheese from the cheesecloth. It is ready to use at this point. To store, put the cheese in a glass container. Cover it with the strained liquid and add ½ tsp salt and 1 tbls yogurt. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to serve.



(Persian Split Pea Patties)


This highly popular dish is also made, with slight variations of the ingredient amounts, with chickpeas. While both good, I actually prefer the split pea version.


1 lb boned leg of lamb or beef or turkey cut in 2” pieces

1 med onion, chopped                                                           

2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp turmeric

1 lb split peas, rinsed                                                             

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp ground saffron bloomed in 2 tbls hot water

3 eggs                   

2 cups oil for frying


In a medium saucepan, combine the meat, onion, 1 ½ tsp salt, pepper, turmeric, and 2 cups water; cover and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat and drain (reserve the juice to use later if meat is too dry). Puree the meat in a food processor and transfer to a large mixing bowl.


Meanwhile, in another saucepan, combine the split peas with 4 cups water and ½ tsp salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and reserve the juice. In the same food processor, puree the split peas and transfer to the bowl with the meat. Cover and refrigerate 2-24 hours.


When the meat mixture is cool, add the baking soda, saffron, and the eggs one by one, and knead for a few minutes until a soft paste is created. If it is too dry, add some reserrved liquid.


In a wide skillet, heat ¼ cup of oil over medium-low heat until hot but not smoking. Place a bowl of warm water next to the skillet. Scoop the meat paste into lumps the size of walnuts. Moisten your hands and flatten each lump into a round shape and press a hole in the middle with your finger. This helps to cook the inside of the patties.


Fry the patties on each side about 5 minutes until golden brown. There should be enough oil so the patties are about half submerged. Gently remove patties with a slotted spatula and place in a wide container lined with parchment paper. Continue making patties, separating each layer with parchment paper. Allow to cool. If not using immediately, cover and keep in the refrigerator up to 3 days.


Serve wrapped in leaf lettuce with traditional sweet & sour sauce or quince paste.




1 onion, chopped 

3 tbls oil

1 tsp turmeric       

1 tsp dried mint

½ cup water         

½ cup vinegar

½ cup grape molasses


Fry onion in oil. Add the turmeric and mint. Stir-fry 20 seconds. Add the water, vinegar, and grape molasses. Bring to a boil.


Serve hot.



 (Fried Dough with Lentils)


Most cultures have a dish based a filling of some kind wrapped in dough. These are particularly tasty. And, for those so inclined, provide a vegetarian option.

     Although butter can substitute, they really work better using ghee.


For the dough:


2 tsp active dry yeast                                                             

1 cup warm water

2 tsp rose water    

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt               

½ tsp ground cardamom

¼ cup ghee, melted & cooled


For the Filling:     


1 cup brown lentils                                                                 

3 cups cold water

2 large onions, finely chopped                                              

1/3 cup ghee


2 tbls brown sugar


To finish:              


Oil for deep frying.


Dissolve yeast in ¼ cup warm water. Add remaining water and rose water.

Sift flour, salt and cardamom into a mixing bowl and remove ½ cup of the mixture. Add the yeast liquid to flour and mix to a soft dough. Work in ghee with reserved flour and knead until smooth, about ten minutes.

Cover and leave in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 45-60 minutes.


Meanwhile, wash lentils well, place in a pan and add the cold water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low heat for1-1 ¼ hours, or until water is absorbed and lentils are soft. Mash with a fork.


Gently fry onion in ghee until transparent and lightly browned, add lentils and fry 5 minutes. Stir in salt to taste and brown sugar. Cool.


Punch down dough and divide into two portions. Roll out each portion thinly to an 18-inch circle. Cut dough into 3-inch rounds and place a generous tsp of lentil paste in center of each round. Moisten edge of dough lightly, fold over, and press firmly to seal. Crip with tines of a fork.


Deep fry in batches for 3 minutes, until golden brown and puffed, turning to brown evenly. Drain on paper towels or a rack.



(Fish Baked in Yogurt with Walnut & Dill Topping)


This has become high on my list of favorite fish dishes. I make it with haddock, mostly, but any firm white fish will do.


2 lbs firm white fish filets


For the sauce:       


½ cup plain yogurt                                                                 

1 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp sea salt         

1 tsp black pepper

2 tbls lime juice    

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp red pepper flakes                                                           

2 tbls olive oil

2 garlic cloves      

1 inch ginger, peeled

2 spring onions, chopped



For the topping:   


¼ cup plain bread crumbs                                                      

1/4 cup walnuts

½ cup chopped parsley                                                           

1/4 cup chopped dill

2 garlic cloves      

¼ cup olive oil

Zest of one lime   

Juice of one lime

½ tsp sea salt        

¼ tsp black pepper


Preheat oven to 350F. Oil a baking dish big enough to fit all the fish filets side by side.


In a food processor, mix all ingredients for the yogurt sauce for 5 minutes (to prevent the yogurt from curdling) and spread on top of the fish.


In the same food processor combine all the ingredients for the walnut topping and pulse until you have a grainy mixture. Sprinkle evenly on top of the fish.


Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown on top.  Serve with plain rice.



(Persian/Turkish Lamb & Pistachio Patties)


What we have here is a classic cross-over dish that appears along the Persian/Turkish border. Doesn’t matter which you use as the source, as they are indistinguishable.  There’s also a Turkish variation that uses walnuts, which is equally good.


5 ¼ shelled pistachios                                                            

2 large eggs

1 lb 2 oz ground lamb                                                            

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tsp ground cumin                                                                

2 heaped tsp sumac

1 tsp ground coriander                                                           

1 tsp ground oregano

Zest of 1 lime       

3 tbls fine sea salt

Black pepper to taste                                                             

1 tbls oil


Blitz 2/3 of the pistachios in a food process until finely ground. Lightly pulse the remaining pistachios, then give them just a little rough chop and put in a large bowl with the finely ground nuts. Add the remaining ingredients except for the oil and mix together well. Really work the mixture, like bead dough, until the texture has broken down and the egg and pistachios are evenly distributed.


Preheat a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat and preheat the oven at its lowest setting.

Divide the mixture into 10 balls and shape them into flattened patties. Drizzle enough vegetable oil to coat the base of the preheated frying pan and fry several of the patties at a time, without overcrowding the pan, until the undersides form a nice brown crust, which should take about 6 minutes, then flip them over and cook until both sides are done.


Transfer the cooked batch to an ovenproof dish and keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining patties.


This by no means completes my personal exploration of Persian food.  Since starting this project the cuisine has moved to the top of my list; rivaling my fascination with the foods of North Africa.


Hopefully, you’ll give some of these recipes a try, and begin your own tour of this amazing contribution to world cuisine.












But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thanket
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