Things are hectic lately. We’re about to move, which is always a stressful time. Yes, finally, I am moving to a big city, Toronto. My husband used to live there, so it won’t be too hard adjusting. Despite all my complaining about where I live now, I am going to miss it. My apartment feels so homey, anyone who visits says the same thing. I’m getting sentimental about leaving. There are so many things I’m going to miss, which I will post about later.
This was the first city my husband and I lived in together, where we moved past the newlywed stage of marriage and have come into our own. We have our own routine here, it’s not the most exciting life or in any way cosmopolitan, but we managed. But there’s always a time to move on, I guess. I don’t want to sound like a downer, I am very happy we’re moving. I’m just the type of person who gets attached to places. I lived in the same house until I was 21.
Anyhow, my main point was that things are hectic around here. When things are hectic, shami kebabs are a lifesaver, emergency food, if you will. They freeze so well and last for months. I must admit, the process of making them is somewhat grueling, but it’s not so bad. I try to always have them on hand because it never hurts to serve an extra dish, especially for a last-minute gathering.
I am smiling right now, thinking about in Pakistan there are always unexpected guests, an occasion where shami kebabs come in very handy. This concept would not really fly in North America, people showing up unannounced and expecting to be served something substantial to eat. Someone usually has to rush to the local bakery to get samosas, various biscuits, and puff pastry patties. Then, all the food is placed on a special trolley for guests and then it is rolled out with a teapot covered in a tea cozy and all the bakery goodies. Meanwhile, shami kebabs are frying up in the kitchen because they are ready in the freezer.
Whether or not you eat shami kebabs as an emergency food, they are delicious and one of my all-time favorites. Since we’re going to be moving and there will be little time to cook, we’ll be eating a lot of shami kebabs. All the hard work is worth it, trust me.
Chicken Shami Kebabs
Makes about 25-30 kebabs
for cooking the chicken:
water, as needed
2 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs, in large chunks*
1 medium sized red onion, roughly sliced, no need to be precise, just in chunks
half a bulb of garlic, peeled
2 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
1 cup yellow split pea lentils (chanay ki dal) soaked overnight and washed
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
3 black cardamoms
5 green cardamoms
10-12 dried red chilies, use less for less spicy
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 bay leaves
salt, to taste
after cooking the chicken you will need:
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped mint
2-3 green chilies, chopped
1/2 a red onion, chopped
4 scallions, white and light green parts, chopped
oil for frying
First, cook the yellow lentils in plenty of boiling water until soft, after 30-45 minutes. Set aside.
In a large pan, add the chicken, a little oil (if necessary), and all of the items listed (including spices) under the “for cooking the chicken” ingredients. Also, add a little water, about 1/2 a cup. Cook the chicken on medium heat for 15 minutes and then turn the heat to medium low and continue cooking for 45 more minutes, or until the chicken is very tender and all the water has evaporated. You may need to add more water to the pot if it evaporates too quickly, just make sure you cook until the chicken is tender and the onion, garlic, and ginger are very soft. Remove the cinnamon stick, black cardamom, and bay leaves, all the other spices will grind in the food processor.
Once the chicken is cooled, allow it to cool for 15-20 minutes. After it has cooled slightly, transfer it to a large food processor with the cooked lentils and pulse until they are combined. Transfer the chicken and lentil mixture to a large bowl and add in the chopped cilantro, mint, scallions, green chilies, and red onion. It’s time to get messy and crack in the 2 eggs and mix it all together with your hands. Once everything is combined, form the chicken into round kebabs, about 3 inches in diameter. You should end up with about 25-30 kebabs.
Next, in a frying pan heat some oil on medium heat and fry the kebabs until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Cook as many as you want and you can freeze the kebabs that are not fried for up to 3-4 months.
Variation: Instead of adding the egg inside the kebab mixture, before frying you can dip each kebab into beaten egg and fry the kebabs with an egg coating. Another slight variation, is that you can grind all the spices that you cook with the chicken i.e. before adding them to the pot grind them all in a spice grinder and cook the chicken with the ground spices. However, I just grind them in the food processor with the chicken after it has cooked, removing the black cardamom, cinnamon stick, and, bay leaves. I find that the other spices grind easily, as they have become soft after cooking. It’s a personal preference.
To reheat frozen shami kebabs: leave frozen kebabs out at room temperature for 30 minutes and fry as usual.
You can serve the shami kebabs as a snack or a side dish with green chutney /chili garlic sauce or with dal and basmati rice. I also like to eat them with parathas. A popular street food in Pakistan is bun kebab, which is also made with shami kebabs.
*I usually use beef stewing meat, which you can use, just cook the yellow lentils with the beef rather than separately and adjust the cooking time and water according to the meat you use. Beef will take longer. I used chicken thighs here because I had some in my freezer. I imagine you could also use chicken breast as well. Some people also cook the meat and lentils in a pressure cooker, but I don’t have one so I can’t give instructions on that method.
Shami Kebab recipes on other sites: