Sunday, October 3, 2010

Seekh Kebab Kari

Not getting what you want forces you to consider other options.

When I could not find, for the third year in a row, the best lamb-stuffed-into-a-pita I'd ever eaten, at the Atlantic Antic, I took matters into my own hands. I opened a book: Charmaine Solomon's Complete Asian Cookbook.

Brace yourselves for a decree:

Every home should have one. My mom has cooked from it since I was a little girl, and I have owned a copy since I have lived in New York.

Following a gut feeling, plus a memory of cardamom, cinnamon and a certain creaminess, my eyes fell upon Seekh Kebab Kari, Skewered Lamb in Spices, in the India and Pakistan section of the book

That was it. Made total sense. Stuff it in pita and Bob's your uncle. Or something. It was delicious.

The recipe is 96% Charmaine Solomon, and 4% me in terms of: fresh ginger, a garam masala deconstruction (I didn't have any prepared garam masala but did have all the separate components, so instead of grinding them, I added proportions of the spices to constitute the required teaspoon of garam masala), more water than she stipulates, and the addition during cooking of a chile. I did not thread it onto skewers before cooking the meat in the curry mixture.

I have a pretty well stocked spice collection which serves as a good basis for much Indian, North African and Middle Eastern cooking. It's worth the shopping trip. But I did not have the black cumin that she toasts and sprinkles over the lamb before serving.

Here goes. Serves four.

Seekh Kebab Kari

1 1/2 lbs lamb (I used shoulder chops and cut the meat into cubes)


2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
(or 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg, 1 stick cinnamon, 1 cardamom pod, 10 twists of the black pepper mill, pinch of cumin, 3 whole cloves)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp fresh chopped ginger
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
4 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice


3 Tbsp ghee or oil (I used butter)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small stick cinnamon
4 cardamom pods, bruised
4 whole cloves
1 tsp chile powder
1/2 cup hot water (I used 2 cups)
1/2 tsp black cumin seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala
(or 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander, pinch of grated nutmeg, 1/2 stick cinnamon, 1 cardamom pod, 5 twists of the black pepper mill, pinch of cumin, 1 whole clove)
1 hot chile

Cut the lamb into cubes. Mix the ingredients for marinade, adding a little water if necessary to make it spreadable. Put the lamb into the marinade and mix very thoroughly: there is not much of it but it is highly flavoured. Leave overnight or for a minimum of two hours.

Ms Solomon now threads her lamb onto skewers, with pieces of fresh ginger between the pieces of meat. I skipped the skewers.

Curry. Heat the ghee or oil (or butter) in large pan and fry the lamb in batches over high heat till browned. Remove from pan, reduce heat and fry onion and garlic gently till golden. Add whole spices and fry a minute longer. Add powdered chile and fry a few seconds. Return meat to the pan. Add the water and stir well to scare up any bits on the bottom. Add the hot chile, sliced down the middle. Cover, bring to a simmer and reduce heat to cook gently until the lamb is very tender, about two hours.

Toast the black cumin seeds for a few seconds and sprinkle over the lamb.

We ate this with hot naan breads from the oven (also her recipe).


  1. Hmmmmmm. I want this. So glad you didn't make the ghee. Freeing news, makes it simpler to contemplate.

  2. Dit lyk fantasties. Ek eye al 'n rukkie daardie boek. Ek het 'n ander Solomon, 'n dunner enetjie, wat ook fabulous is. En ek is ook nogal lus vir Rick Stein se Far Eastern Odyssey, wat net delicious lyk. Iewers moet ek 'n ryk ou oom he^ wat vir my sy boedel los of iets.

  3. I'm back.If it's not a hassle can you post the naan recipe, yours looks perfect.

    xo jane

  4. oh, want. Also, the naan - I have NO idea how to make naan at home and yours looks so good.

  5. Ok Ok Ok - naan recipe coming up!

    Arcadia - ek is mal oor Rick Stein - het nie geweet van daai boek nie. En boeke kos 'n fortuin in SA. Ken jy Hot Sour Salty Sweet?

  6. I kept meaning to comment on this post as I have a copy of Charmaine Solomon's book (published by Grub street) which I bought a good few years back. I was dubious about it at the time, in the same way if a book was entitled say 'cookery of the West' I'd be dubious, but no, I was wrong to be so. I like her Beef Rendang recipe, open to adaptation of course, but served with glutinous rice it's a gem.

    Ah a curry, food of the gods. That photo makes me hungry.


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