This is a dish I came up with over the summer in the UK, before I flew back to Cambodia. Well to be fair, Twitter created it. You see I’d got bored of cookbooks, even the ones all boxed up in the attic and lovingly revisited one afternoon before I had to say goodbye to the house again.
And I was pretty flat out of ideas, what with the culture shock of being back in Blighty and all. It had become much more fun looking in the fridge to see what needed using up, and then asking people on Twitter for recipe ideas. That night, it was the mince that was going green at the back of the fridge.
“I have a pound in both weight and price of lamb mince, and zero inspiration. Any recommendations of what to do with it gratefully received,” I wrote.
Unless you’re Egg Wallace with his big, brass bed, throwing requests into the Twitter pond is a bit like fishing, in my experience - mostly you hardly get anything. But I had a good response that night.
Chef Dave Ahern (@CorkGourmetGuy) - who I’d met the day before when he did a cooking demo at Maltby Street Market, near London Bridge, where I was flogging my book - suggested lamb chilli. Dino J (@Gastro1) recommended keema mutter or lamb kofte. Mikey Davies (@tucksontour) went for koftes with pitta and tzatziki, or lamb burgers, as did Linda Galloway (@daffodilsoup). And Judy Olsen (@judycopywriter) recommended Greek meatballs with lemon sauce, which she remembered making in the 1980s.
There were more calls for kofte, and then pub landlord and kebab aficionado Oisin Rogers (@Mcmoop) suggested an adana kebab, and sent a link to a recipe from New York restaurant Turkuaz. Everything from the onion to the parsley to the red pepper to the garlic was ‘minced’, except the mince which was ‘ground’. Oh, how I love American English.
Mix, squeeze on to skewers, and hope it stays together. But I didn’t like the idea of a tablespoon of coriander seeds, whether lightly crushed or not - the nearest kebab van was miles away, and I was craving something truer to the simple lamb and onion notes of a true, dirty kebab. Oisin wrote back, saying: “I had one made by a mate in Antalya that ONLY used ground pepper and salt. Sumac on the salad, garlic yog and chilli sauce. A*”
I liked the sound of that. I put the pound of lamb mince in a bowl, and added one small grated onion, two finely chopped garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and then trudged out into the dark to pick a handful of fresh coriander, which I chopped up and threw in to disguise the colour of the mince.
I mixed the meaty dough with my hands until it was well blended and then rolled it on a board into a sausage shape. I know some chefs who scoff at the idea, but I’d always been told to roll minced kebabs in flour to help them stay together, so I threw some flour on the board and rolled them out until they looked like saucissons you see hanging from the ceiling of French delis.
I poured a glug of vegetable oil into a frying pan and fried the babs over a fairly gentle heat for 15 minutes or so, rolling them around to ensure they were evenly browned. They looked so good, I got a bit carried away at that point.
I pilfered half a bottle of blended Scotch, with ‘medicine’ written on the bottle, that was hidden at the back of the cupboard, threw some in and flamed it. I’m not quite sure why, it didn’t do anything for its Turkish authenticity. But if you’ve got a well-stocked booze cupboard, then you might flame a few glugs of raki or arak, or perhaps not bother at all.
While the kebabs were frying, I got on with the rest of the meal. I found an old pitta bread that was crumbling slightly in the freezer, and then headed back out into the dark, taking fright again at the will-o-wisp glint of the CDs hanging in the cherry trees to scare away pigeons, and snagged a cabbage from next door’s garden. They’d probably just think the rabbit had escaped again.
I soon had my sliced cabbage, onion, cucumber and tomato together. I had my bottle of delicious African Volcano peri peri sauce from Maltby Street Market at the ready, and then just as it was all going so well, I moved on to the garlic sauce and found the only yoghurt I had was fucking probiotic peach and mango flavour.
So I thought bollocks to the wellingtons, and just covered my kebab with the fiery sauce, just like they used to make them at the legendary Sphinx kebab shop in Brighton. It was a splendid late-night, home-made kebab, and didn’t cry out for the toasted cumin and coriander seeds that many of the tweeted recipes asked for. In fact, it was a lot better without them. But then, that’s the beauty of Twitter.