Kebabs with a kick: Chelo kebab koobideh

Sure, we’d love an ice cream maker, a deep fat fryer, a fancy coffee machine… Truthfully, we’d like the entire Lakeland catalogue and an appropriately-sized kitchen to go with it. But if there was one kitchen gadget that would, above all others, make our culinary lives easier, it would be a dishwasher. Mechanical or human, we’re not fussy – as long as it didn’t have to be us. And that has possibly never been more evident than during the past week, when we’ve seemed to have an endless supply of dishes piling up next to the sink.

It was Miranda’s 30th birthday on Thursday which meant that Ash made his yearly foray into the world of baking and produced a fabulous sticky toffee cake that we’re still making our way through. Then he cooked a lovely four-course meal as a birthday treat on Saturday night. This sort of frivolity doesn’t happen without utensils, though, so we were contending with a conglomerate of cake tins, mixing bowls, saucepans, frying pans, chopping boards, cutlery and crockery far bigger than either our sink or our draining board for days on end.

Birthday pics

We then didn’t help ourselves by cooking this Iranian dish on Sunday. ‘Kebabs, rice and salad – that can’t be too complicated,’ you might think, and you’d be right, if we hadn’t tried unsuccessfully to use a mill and a blender to create the paste for the kebabs. A word to the wise: if you decide to make this recipe, just go with a standard food processor first time…

Chelo Kebab Koobideh
(Recipe courtesy of Fauzia’s Kitchen Fun)

For the rice:
1 cup basmati rice
2 tbsp yoghurt
1/2 tsp crushed saffron soaked in 1/2 tbsp water
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1/2 tbsp salt
Some cubes of butter, chilled

For the kebabs:
500g beef mince
1 medium onion
1 small bunch coriander (leaves and stems)
2 green chillies
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tbsp sumac
1/2 tsp turmeric (try not to spill this in your boyfriend’s cup of tea whilst measuring it)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

1. First, make the kebabs. In a food processor, blend the onion, coriander and chillies to form a paste. Sieve and drain away any excess moisture from the paste until it is completely dry.
2. Add the paste to all of the other ingredients and mix well. (Our recipe then said to chill overnight, but we didn’t bother with this. It may or may not make a difference. But if you don’t, you can at least let them sit while you get the rice started.)
3. Bring a big pot of water to the boil and add the rice. Boil until the rice is almost cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.
4. Drain the water from the rice and then pour the rice back into the pot. Add the yoghurt and oil and mix gently. At the top of the rice, add the saffron water to one section and mix in lightly. Cover the pot and let it steam on very low heat or in a 180C oven for 15-20 minutes (although we left it longer). Apparently you can form a characteristic crust on the rice by turning the heat up a bit for the last 10 minutes, but ours just stuck to the pan.
5. Shape the koobideh on long flat metal skewers, about 12” long. This should make 6 kebabs. Once shaped, cook on a BBQ or under a grill until nicely browned on both sides.
6. Serve the kebabs with the rice (sprinkled with sumac and topped with a cube of butter) and some salad.
Serves 2

Uncooked kebabs

Chelo kebab koobideh and salad

So, the ‘would we make it again’ test. The rice was a bit of a disaster: it was fine, but I think we slightly overcooked it, the yoghurt made it taste a bit strange, Miranda doesn’t like butter (a key feature of this particular rice preparation style) and we didn’t get the crust that a chelo is meant to have, so we probably wouldn’t bother with that again. Normal plain rice would have been just as good. The kebabs were very tasty though, with just enough chilli to give them a kick without them being too hot, so we’ve earmarked them to be revisited in BBQ season. Ash pointed out that they’d work just as well as burgers. Next time, though, we’ll try to cut back on the dishes.

Thus concludes our Middle Eastern adventure, as we are about to embark on a culinary journey of the Indian subcontinent. We’re looking forward to seeing just what the difference is between Pakistani, Indian, Nepalese and Bangladeshi food. We do like a good curry, so this should be fun!

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