Five days into May and we’ve already been graced with a solid string of beautiful, hot, sunny days. I can barely remember how much of a long slog this past winter was. Now that everything’s in bloom and people have begun crawling out from their apartments, a major shift is underway in the city. Short-shorts have returned. So have post-work picnics, balcony beers and frequent visits to the ice-cream man. In the late afternoon, plumes of smoke begin billowing off of back porches and the the air takes on the deep perfume of charcoal. By 7pm, the whole city starts to smell like a Portuguese grill house.
And you know what that means.
To celebrate the return of outdoor grilling and backyard socialising, I’d like to share the a recipe that I discovered a few weeks back, and that I suspect will be on heavy rotation during BBQ season. It’s a version of kefta where the lamb is spiced with a mixture of cumin, sumac and thyme, and studded with bright green pistachio nuts. There’s a really nice, tangy fast-pickled onion that you lay on top, along with some fresh mint and Greek yogurt, the whole thing is craddled in a warmed flatbread. It’s one of my new favourite things, especially when it’s accompanied by a cold beer.
While I don’t actually have a barbecue (details, details), I’ve made them in a cast-iron pan on the stove-top and they were delicious. If you happen to be one of those lucky bastards with a BBQ, I’m begging you to make good use of it and grill these suckers, kebab-style, on your beautiful, smoky, hunk of machinery.
No matter what heat source you’re using to make them, the important thing is to make sure your cooking surface is nicely preheated, so be patient in that regard. Also, I think these are best pink (medium) on the inside; some people will prefer them medium-rare. This should be fine as long as you’re using good quality meat and you know your butcher. Whatever you do, please please please don’t overcook them. They will get hard and weird and gross and then you’ll blame me for the crummy recipe, and then I’ll be like, “No! You cooked them too long!” and it’ll be awful because we’ll both know that I’m right.
Enjoy, friendlies. x
Grilled lamb kefta with pistachios and pickled red onion (adapted from Jamie Oliver) – serves 3-4
- 250g good-quality minced lamb
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- ½ Tbsp ground chilli
- ½ Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp sumac
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup shelled pistachio nuts
- ½ cucumber, sliced
- a handful of fresh mint, leaves picked
- a handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked
- ½ red onion, peeled and very finely sliced
- ½ lemon (or 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar)
- 4 large flatbreads or tortilla wraps
- about 4 Tbsp natural yogurt
In a food processor, combine the thyme, chilli, cumin and sumac, a little salt and pepper and all the pistachios. Put the lid on and pulse until the mixture the pistachios are broken up into small pieces (but NOT ground). Add the lamb and pulse a few times until everything is combined (you may need to move the mixture around a little between each set of pulses to make sure everything mixes well).
Divide the meat into small patties (if cooking stove-top), or (if using a BBQ) separate into pieces that you will wrap and shape onto 4 metal skewers. Press little indents in the meat with your fingers as you go – the end result will have better texture.
In a small bowl, combine the sliced onion with a good pinch of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice (or a bit of red wine vinegar). Scrunch the onion in its “marinade” with your hands. Set aside.
Grill the patties (or kebabs) until nicely golden brown on all sides. When the meat is almost done, warm your flatbreads for 30 seconds on your griddle pan or under the grill, then divide between plates and top each with the and onion. When your patties (or kebabs) are cooked, slip them onto the flatbreads.
Add a few dollops of yogurt on the lamb and top with the cucumber slices, mint and parsley before rolling up and serving*.
(*in the original recipe, Jamie Oliver dresses some salad greens with some olive oil and lemon and adds it to the wrap in lieu of the cucumber. I pretty much just used what turned up in the fridge, but the addition of mixed salad would be really lovely too.)