It was a pretty typical Saturday. I wake-up a little before everyone else, fold laundry and watched some tube. We later have breakfast, and straighten up the house. We go to the store. We visit with family that stops in. We take care of breathing treatments and play some video games, cook a giant piece of meat on a machete, and finally end the night with a movie while Nathan draws big pictures quietly on the floor. Just another day.
I recently discovered that the traditional dish, the National Dish, of Iran is a kabob. Not just any kabob, a plating of kabob koobideh and Kabab-e Barg, served with grilled tomatoes and saffron rice with butter and sumac. Now this is different than a shish-kebob that we commonly know, which uses thin, stick-like skewers. The Iranian’s use wide flat skewers. This tradition dates back to the nomadic days when herdsman would cook their meals over an open fire by skewering pieces of meat on their sword. Ah, yes, that is where the machete comes in.
To be totally honest it served both novel and practical purposes. I didn’t have any 2 inch wide pieces of aluminum lying around, but I did have a couple of cheap machete from Honduras hiding in my closet. Who doesn’t, right?
Long story short this was a really fun meal to cook, and it brought a little bit of culture to our table. It would be perfect for a camping trip or a BBQ night with your friends.
If you are not familiar with sumac, you can just leave it out, but it really is a staple condiment for many Middle Eastern countries. They usually have a small dish of it right on the table, sometimes with salt, to be sprinkled on any part of your dish as desired. I was really surprised at how it’s tangy-ness went really well with the rice. In fact, I think I will start making it available to my family as an option for rice and vegetables regularly.
I purchased my sumac at a local spice and tea shop. Any middle eastern shop would have it, and probably most other international markets, but you can also order it online quite easily. It really isn’t expensive, it’s very natural, and it can be used in lieu of lemon and similar flavors in a lot of dishes. I strongly suggest trying it out sometime. Sumac is an easy one to add to your spice cabinet, even if you are not a particularly adventurous type.
Koobideh kababs are usually made of lamb, with finely minced onion and sometimes parsley. Quite easy to make, this recipe is just fun! Let me know what other kinds of tools, if any, you have used to make kebobs, and how this recipe turned out for you!
- 1 pound ground lamb
- half of a medium onion; minced very fine and drained/pressed
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 ground celery seed
- 1/2 t turmeric
- 1/4 t smoked paprika
- 1/4 t garlic powder
- 1 T sumac
- 1/2 T salt
- 1 t pepper
- Fine mince half of an onion, then use paper towels to squeeze out excess water.
- Add the onion, egg yolk, celery seed, turmeric, smoked paprika, garlic powder, sumac, salt, and pepper to the ground lamb and blend, squeezing with your hand.
- Prepare grill or griddle (<—with oil or butter) to the equivalent of medium/medium-high.
- Press the meat and spice mixture onto the wide skewers/(machete in this case) with both sides connecting around the circumference, [like a tube].
- Place over heat source, rack or griddle, on first side for 3-5 minutes, or until charred. Then flip to other side and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Check for done-ness and remove. (Make adjustments to this timeline based on the thickness of the meat you have pressed onto your skewer. Thin meat means less time. Particularly thick meat on either side of the ‘blade’ will need more time.)
- Skewer your favorite vegetables, tomato and bell pepper seem to be traditional, to braise over heat with the meat. Season with salt and pepper.
- Plate koobideh kabob meat along with seared vegetables and saffron rice. Have a dish of sumac (with or without salt) available to sprinkle over rice and meat.