Much Needed Lamb Kebab…

Last week, we realized that we have been enjoying lots of red meat dishes and it is affecting our health a tad bit. So we wowed to weave more fish, vegetables, grains and legumes into our daily diet. I know it will be better for my health but I have hard time giving up the red meat even for a couple of days. It is not in my genes, my family does not give up on that kind of stuff.

Growing up, I had many lunches and dinners with my grandparents. My grandfather, Ziya, was really particular when it came to his food. Well, he was a very opinionated person…And food was no exception. For him to call it “dinner “, there were certain things that had to be present at that table: Soup, green salad, meat dish, pilav or pasta to serve the meat dish with and a vegetable side dish, zeytinyagli followed by dessert and seasonal fruit , capped with Turkish tea.

Many times, my mom tried to put him on a diet. She lost a lot of weight with carb counting one time and tried to get my grandfather to follow the suit and count the carbs. Conversation usually went like this:

“Dad, you really need to eat less and go on a diet!”


“Dad, it is so easy, just eat 60 points worth of carbs in a day and you will be healthier.”

“Who is counting?”

“I’ll help”

“Ok…So only 60 points? Do I have to eat 60 points of carbs before the meals or after the meals?”

It always ended with my mom leaving the room, talking to herself in frustration.

So, yes, we love our food and we always have hard time with giving it up. My mom has been the only one, always disciplined, always on some sort of diet but somehow here or there she realizes her weaknesses. I gave up once, became anorexic and after that I promised myself not to do such crazy, non-sense unhealthy things.

But I guess the moderation is the key!

I do not need to panic, we are not turning vegetarians here and no need to whine about it as my freezer has respectable amount of meat that can be thawed in emergencies. But I needed some kinda “end-of-the-season” bang before I get used to the idea of having only one vegetable dish and salad on the table for most days of the week.

I have always been very fond of kababs, mostly lamb ones. I make them either with small-cut meat on skewers or ground meat patted around wide, flat metal skewers. If you like kababs, and would like to challenge yourself in wrapping your meat around one of these, go ahead and get yourself a set of one inch or wider skewers.

In Turkey though, we do not make it at home. We go to the restaurants that specializes in kebabs. Especially, ocakbasi restaurants. At these restaurants, you can sit around a big charcoal grill and drink your raki and eat your meze while they cook your kabab in front of you. I always left those restaurants happy, full, a little tipsy and probably smelling like a chimney sweeper. But the taste is very much worth that last outcome.

(These two pictures were taken at a famous kebab restaurant in Istanbul, our orders.  The second one has ground pistachios on top!)

If you want to create the same atmosphere at home, chill your raki and get to work. You either have to really finely chop the onion (possibly in food processor) and give it a good squeeze to get rid of the water. I grated mine, put it in the cheese cloth and squeezed all the juice out of it. I do not like my meat sit on the skewers for a long time as onion might release more water, causing it fall from the skewer. I usually mix the meat with the dry spices and let it sit for an hour or so in the fridge before I add onion and finely chopped parsley. After I mix in those last two ingredients, I immediately wrap it around the skewers and head to the grill.While I am at it, I throw some tomatoes and peppers on the grill as well. You know, so I can have a balanced meal!

Now, that is The Kebab I needed to start my “less red meat” action.

Lamb Kebabs

  • 1 lbs (500 gr) of ground lamb
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped or grated, squeezed)
  • 4 tablespoons of patted dried, finely chopped parsley
  • 2-3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dry thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (more or less depending on your spice level)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin (optional- I just like adding cumin to my meat dishes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1. Mix dry spices with the meat. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour.

2. Add onion, garlic and parsley. Divide the meat into four equal pieces. Wrap it around the 1-inch wide skewers, patting them down to about 8 inch long kebabs.

3. Cook it on the grill about 3-4 min on each side (depends on how hot your grill is).

4. Serve with lavash bread, red onion, sumac, more parsley and grilled vegetables.



  1. by Lana
    6:44 pm
    Aug 26, 2012

    Even though I just returned from Serbia, this takes me back to the good times I enjoyed with my friends and family. Yes, to eating mezze and drinking raki (or “rakija”, the plum brandy so cherished by all the people of the Balkans:)
    We have a few great Iranian stores in the neighborhood that carry halal meat. I tip the butchers every time and i get the best of the best – sometimes I feel like I am back home:)
    Thanks for these beautiful photos, Ilke! I hope your summer was great. Cannot wait to catch up:)

  2. by Terra
    7:51 pm
    Aug 26, 2012

    You know this grilling freak is loving your recipe!!!! It is funny, I enjoy meat, but really don’t love it. I want the bad stuff….the carbs, LOL:-) So I can totally sympathize with your father:-) I need to find those skewers now, hubby wants all the fun grilling toys:-) Hugs, Terra

  3. by Calantha
    8:15 pm
    Aug 26, 2012

    Referring back to one of your previous posts, I’m lucky with regards to monitoring my meat consumption due to the fact that I dislike making meat at home. For that, I happily live primarily on a vegetarian diet and eat meat maybe once a week at most. I have quite the opposite experience – I suddenly become very aware of how my body needs MORE meat for my health. The sudden craving for meat is phenomenal. Lamb is one of my favourites and looking at these make my heart race with want. I’ll need to find a good place in the are that can make a dish as beautiful as this!

  4. by rebecca
    9:58 pm
    Aug 26, 2012

    oh my I want this plate now adore kebabs too yummy

  5. by Tuğba Tekeli
    11:21 am
    Aug 27, 2012

    Merhaba İlke,

    Yine harika görseller eşliğinde bir şölen sunmuşsun bize. Çok seviyorum senin fotoğraf karelerini. Her birinin üzerine sayfalar dolusu kelime yazabilirim herhalde. Konu bir de kebap olunca yazıya doyamadım. İnan ben tam da şu anda bir kebapçıda olmayı öyle arzu ediyorum ki. Ellerine sağlık. Harika bir lezzeti olduğuna eminim. Kebabı servis ettiğin bakır kapta en sevdiklerimdendir:):)Selamlar ve sevgiler:)


  6. by thyme (Sarah)
    3:44 pm
    Aug 27, 2012

    That looks so absolutely delicious. I sure would love to travel with you in Turkey so you can explain all of the nuances, ingredients, and stories behind all of the food. Those kebabs look delicious on those wide skewers. I’ve never seen that before! Good luck with moderating your meat intake…dishes will taste all the most special perhaps!

  7. by Mrs Ergül
    9:57 pm
    Aug 28, 2012

    Don’t get me craving, Ilke!!! I will make sure I get brought to the specialized kebab shop the next time. When we went to Çiya Kebap last time, they did not cook the kebap in front of me.

    PS: I love all the crockery you have in this post!!!

  8. by kitchenriffs
    12:49 pm
    Aug 29, 2012

    Love this! Kebabs are great. It kinda stinks that for health reasons many of us need to eat less red meat, but you can do some fabulous stuff with veggies. Good post – thanks.

  9. by Angie@Angie's Recipes
    2:22 pm
    Aug 29, 2012

    wow I need this too! You know, my husband is a huge fan of Turkish food…this is definitely a treat for him.

  10. by Angie@Angie's Recipes
    2:23 pm
    Aug 29, 2012

    p.s If you don’t have Ovaltine malt chocolate powder on hand, stand hot chocolate drink powder or just cocoa powder would be just great too.

  11. by Ilke
    2:27 pm
    Aug 29, 2012

    Thanks Angie. I did not know what it was. Makes it easier now.

  12. by Christin
    7:44 pm
    Aug 29, 2012

    I have never seen those wide skewers. I want some! The lamb looks so delicious wrapped around them.

  13. by Parsley Sage
    9:27 am
    Aug 31, 2012

    Hey man, if i don’t leave the restaurant smelling like a chimney then I CLEARLY haven’t gotten my money’s worth. This is a brilliant post to see that the start of the day. Great colors, gorgeous dishes, delicious food…loving me some kebabs.

    And I’m glad you’ve snapped out of that anorexic nonsense! Eating is what we LIVE for :)

  14. by Tori @ The Shiksa in the Kitchen
    10:29 am
    Aug 31, 2012

    Mmmm, kebab. That second picture from Turkey looks awesome– the wrap with pistachios? Yum! We are vegetarian about 80% of the time, and it really does help keep the health/weight in check. But once in a while, we splurge. What better way than with a spiced lamb kebab! I usually ask the butcher to ground the lamb twice, it makes the kebabs more tender. A tip I picked up from a Persian friend. You must come to LA so we can cook together sometime!

  15. by Delishhh
    12:16 am
    Sep 3, 2012

    Oh my – love lamb kebabs so much! I make them all the time and this sounds like an awesome recipe. Going to save it.

  16. by Jen McAliley
    7:40 pm
    Sep 3, 2012

    I see a food truck in your near future…

  17. by Ilke
    7:58 pm
    Sep 3, 2012

    Don’t even think about it!

  18. by Susan
    1:36 pm
    Sep 6, 2012

    That is a funny story about your father. I think many of our parents and grandparents are cut from the same cloth ;)

    What delightful kebobs!

  19. by Ju
    2:24 pm
    Jan 11, 2013


    Greetings from Malaysia. I saw your blog through tastespotting! I’ve always been obsessed with Turkiye, its food and culture! Would love to visit one day.

    I remember eating kebap in a Turkish restaurant here in my country. It was my first time eating Turkish cuisine and I didn’t know the flatbread under the meat was a flatbread! I thought it was a yellow kitchen towel! Oh the embarrassment! Also, I didn’t know we have to crush the roasted vegetables first! :D

  20. by Ilke
    7:54 am
    Jan 12, 2013

    Merhaba Ju! :) Crush the roasted vegetables first?? What do you mean? I am curious now :)

  21. by thyme (Sarah)
    1:44 pm
    May 26, 2013

    ooooh, Ilke…we are back from your fabulous country! So many sights, sounds, and smells are still whirling in my head. I can’t thank you enough for all of the recommendations. Look…here I am on your blog getting the recipe to make kebabs tomorrow!

  22. by Christine
    11:39 am
    Aug 19, 2013

    I’ve made it twice now in the past month, I do add some hot red pepper paste to the mix and maybe a little more alepo pepper but we like things spicy. This time I did 12 different dishes for a Turkish dinner for 25. Everyone loved the lamb! I bought a boneless leg of lamb and minced my own by breaking it down into cubes (and trimming fat and membranes), freezing them then mincing them in the food processor. The lamb was delicate, tender and most beautiful. I trimmed it so much that I actually got a little too lean and had to add extra olive oil. I make small patties and cook them up as I am making the mixture to be sure I am happy with the spices before I cook up a large batch.

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