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?”
“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.
- 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.