Nights when I’m lazy and don’t know what to make I always turn to Pakistani food. I don’t have to think about it and it just comes naturally. Even though seekh kebabs might be daunting for some, they are so simple and you don’t need a hoard of ingredients for them as is the case with most Pakistani dishes.
I am not creative with Pakistani food or add my own twist to it. I keep it as it is, in my mind it needs no alterations. There have been occasions when I see people, bloggers and others who add something to a Pakistani dish and make me think, “not such a great idea.” Yes, I know food is relative to each person and flavors are as well. But, somehow I can’t bring myself to do it. Plus, no need for me to be judgmental when I probably corrupt other cultures’ food to no end. This makes me recall my recent trip to Marrakech, I told the cooking instructor, Lala Nazha, that I add nuts and herbs and dried fruits to couscous and she sort of looked at me with disdain, sort of like, “that’s not authentic.”
Seekh Kebabs are usually something you eat at a tandoori restaurant, but here in Kingston I don’t have any Pakistani restaurants and have to fend for myself. Well, there is one, but my husband tried it before I moved here and said it’s not good, so I’m taking his word for it. I usually get my fix when I visit my in-laws in Toronto because if you can say one thing about them, it is that they LOVE to barbecue. (Of course that’s not the only good thing to say about them.) When I say LOVE, I mean the strongest form of the word. Chicken tikkas and seekh kebabs (beef) are served by the tray-ful, full of smokey charcoaly flavor. Plus, my in-laws’ food is so good that they don’t like any Pakistani restaurant in Toronto. I recommend some and then they never like them. Their standards are quite high. If I cooked like them, I wouldn’t need restaurants either.
Usually, I make my seekh kebabs out of chicken, mainly for the health reasons. Authentic beef seekh kebabs have a great deal of fat. Extra fat is added into the meat grinder, just so they stay moist. I use ground chicken, but if you have a meat grinder, by all means by whole pieces of boneless white and dark meat chicken (or beef) and grind the spices and vegetables/herbs all together in the grinder, sort of like making a sausage. These kebabs are amazing with naan, green chutney, and salad.
Chicken Seekh Kebabs
Makes 7-8 Kebabs
1 pound ground chicken (white and dark meat), or ground beef
1/4 yellow split peas (roasted on a dry pan until they start to become slightly browned and slightly cooled, then ground in a spice grinder)
1/2 a red onion, chopped
1/2 a cup packed cilantro, chopped
10 mint leaves, chopped
2 green chilies, chipped finely (use less or omit seeds for less spicy)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
2 inch piece of ginger, grated finely
1 tablespoon garam masala (freshly ground, if possible)
2 teaspoons cumin powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1/2 a teaspoon red chili powder, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
some canola oil or butter for basting the kebabs
Combine all the ingredients, except the oil in a food processor (or by hand) and pulse until well combined, about a minute or two. When combined, form the meat into approximately 6 inch sausages, not too thick though. If you have thick metal skewers use those and form the meat onto the skewers. The skewer method will only work on an outdoor grill.
If you are able to let the kebabs marinate with the spices for at least an hour before cooking.
Cook the kebabs on a grill pan on medium heat (or outdoor grill) for about 6 minutes per side, or until completely cooked through. While cooking, keep basting the kebabs with butter or oil, so that they develop a sheen or glisten.
*If your meat is very lean add some oil or melted butter so that the meat does not dry up when cooking.
*Wet your hands with water while shaping the kebabs, this way the meat won’t stick to your hands.
*As many of you know Pakistan has been ravaged by floods, the international response is severely lacking and innocent people are suffering. Hold back any preconceived notions you may or may not have about Pakistan and look at the human suffering that is occurring there. Please donate, many organizations are taking funds. My family has gone through Unicef.
Also, see Shayma’s (The Spice Spoon’s) poignant call for help here.