Friday, 21 September 2012

ilona's kabab diaries with recipes

a year or so ago i tried to get mama to write for my blog. it seemed logical to do so not only because she is an excellent writer but also because i thought it was a smart way of getting her to pen recipes that i needed. as you can see it never worked. despite feeling a little peeved about it i understand why. she runs a creative business called atelier ilona lighting. this is a line of bespoke lighting. she also does a range of projects that include furniture design and embellishment with decoupage, photography and printmaking. she is a published poet, contributes regularly to nukta art magazine and when she isn’t too busy doing all that, cooks up culinary creations for human beings and cats and also paints handmade sari’s and block printed scarves for me.

alan and chewbacca
this summer i watched her cook many of my favourite things and chief amongst these were her ‘kachay keemay kay kabab’ (literally kebabs made with raw mince). i even worked the mixture myself and shaped the kebabs whilst writing a recipe of sorts. when i got back to london i discovered that much of it was illegible but since most of it was preserved in my mind’s eye i wasn’t too worried. but to my surprise one day at the tail end of august she wrote to me about the sad demise of shorty the rooster prefaced by the kabab diaries. life as you see is not linear and so sad news about pets comes with attachments of recipes. without further ado, here are her kebab diaries. i made my first set of kebabs as a hybrid of the two recipes below and will post that recipe separately.

shorty and mrs. shorty
yesterday we had guests over for tea. i used to make little seekh kababs for tea, then stopped making them for several years, although they’ve often featured in full meals. i will save that recipe for later, as i know it by heart. but yesterday’s effort came out better than i expected. they are my attempt at making a homemade chappal kabab that bursts with flavour. so although it doesn’t have the ingredients that traditionally go into these, such as fried egg, chopped tomato and beef marrow, nor do i make my kababs from buffalo mincemeat as i’m told they are made in the frontier, here is my take, after two experiments. the key ingredient which gives the basic mixture an entirely different, sharp flavour, is the anar dana.

for those who are unfamiliar with the chappal kabab: they originate in the frontier province of pakistan, now called khyber pakhtunkhwa. ‘chappal’ means sandal, hence my referring to forming the kabab like a sandal sole. nothing can beat a chappal kabab from the frontier, it’s dark in colour, fried on a griddle, it’s full of flavours, which can be savoured individually as well as collectively. needless to say it’s also very heavy, and greasy, and requires a cup of sweet, spiced kahva to wash it down.

{ilona’s chappal kababs}

mix half a kilo of beef minced (fine ground) with a quarter kilo of chicken mince (you could also do half and half). 

in your chopper, chop one large onion and a one-inch by one inch (roughly) piece of ginger. then take this out and put it into the meat mix. now chop a handful of mixed cilantro and mint, and two fresh, hot green chillies, again in the chopper, and add it to the meat mix.

add to this the following: an egg, two tablespoons cornmeal or crumbs from one slice of white bread and four ounces of crumbled plain cottage cheese

one and one half tablespoons roughly ground anar dana (pomegranate seeds) preferably in a pestle and mortar, or roughly blitzed in a grinder and one and a half tablespoons coriander seeds (roughly ground, they should have a little ‘bite’)

one teaspoon salt
half a teaspoon red chilli flakes

mix everything together and put it into the fridge for about half an hour. then take it out and form the meat into small rectangular patties, about one third of an inch thick, rounding the edges slightly to give it the shape of a sandal sole. the best way to form kababs is to keep a bowl of cold water into which you dip your hands each time you form a kabab. then take a round of meat mix that fits your palm and form a ball which you then flatten and round out. 

put each kabab on a tray, then put the tray in the fridge or freezer to firm the kababs, as the mixture will be soft. when forming kababs, try to smooth over all cracks and breaks in the mixture. that’s where the moisture from your wet hands comes in handy.

fry the kababs in hot shallow oil, about two tablespoons. the initial frying should be done over high heat, then lower to medium. flip the kababs after two minutes, then raise the heat for a few seconds so that the juices seal. lower the heat to medium and fry the underside for two to three minutes. there are two ways to be sure the kababs are done. either prick one with a fork, and if the juices run clear then it’s done. or lower the heat to medium low after frying as above and allow the kababs to fry for an extra two minutes, for good measure.

{ilona’s kachay keemay kay kabab}

the other recipe for little round kababs (kachhay keemay kay kabab) or seekh kababs, is as follows: one kg beef minced (minced twice), lean. or you can use an equal mixture of beef and chicken mince

eight ounces crumbled plain cottage cheese
one teaspoon salt (i always taste-check the raw mixture)
half a teaspoon chilli flakes
one and a half tablespoons roughly ground coriander seeds
one tsp white zeera
crumbs from one or two slices fresh white bread
one egg

to be ground in the chopper: two onions, quarter kg coriander or coriander and mint mixed together, four cloves garlic, three hot fresh green chillies. roughly chop all ingredients manually first, and put the onions and garlic in to chop before you add the green items.

mix all together and fry as above. you can make these into rounds, like mini burger patties, or you can form six inch long three quarter inch diameter seekh kababs

you can eat these kababs as they are, with ketchup, or imlee ki chutney, or mint chutney.
to make mint chutney, chop together a clove of garlic, a generous handful of mint (leaves), one green chilli, and one tablespoon of yoghurt, until they make a paste. salt to taste, and add a bit more yoghurt if it’s too thick. this chutney benefits by the addition of one teaspoon ground anar dana. it’s really up to you whether you want a runny, dipping chutney or a thick paste.

you can freeze kababs. when you defreeze them, warm them in a pan over medium heat with a tablespoon of oil and a tablespoon of water seasoned with a pinch each of turmeric and red chilli flakes. put the oil and water mixture in first, heat slightly, put in the kababs, then put the lid on and shake off and on. when the kababs sizzle and water evaporates they are done. you can also do this while they are partially defrosted, in which case you will need a bit more oil and water mix, and a longer steaming period. warming them in the microwave will make for a dry kabab, so don’t try it!

{masala for kababs}

another way to eat kababs is to make a ‘masala’ for them. for one to one and a half dozen kababs i use about five large onions sliced in half rings, which i caramelize slowly over medium low heat. the best way to do this is to put the onions in a wok with a quarter cup of oil, put the lid on and allow them to sweat for a few minutes. when you can see that they are softened, take the lid off and keep stirring off and on until they are an even, golden brown biscuit colour. then add five tomatoes sliced into eight lengthwise, a good pinch turmeric, a tsp of white zeera, a good pinch of chilli flakes. allow the tomatoes to bruise and caramelize slightly, shaking and stirring the pan off and on (if you feel you need more oil at this stage, you can do so) then put the kababs on top, put the lid on the pan, and allow to steam for about ten minutes over low heat. at the end if you feel there is still too much moisture, you can turn up the heat and fry the mixture until the excess moisture evaporates. at this stage you add a one and a half inch piece of ginger, finely julienned, three sliced green chillies and two tablespoons chopped fresh coriander.

note; it’s always best to fry all your kababs after forming and chilling, as the salt will cause the moisture from the onions to run if they stand for too long, resulting in a very soggy and incontrollable mixture. also, you can make these kababs using just beef, or even just chicken, although i personally prefer beef as it has more flavour. but i am a great fan of mixing meats.

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