Wednesday, June 29

Posh Lamb Kebabs with Houmous, Roast Garlic Yoghurt, Chopped Salad & Harissa

Like all beer loving lads, there have been shady times in my culinary life when I have succumbed to a dirty kebab after a nights boozing (cue anecdote about Britain's funniest kebab shop name: 'Jason's Doner Van').   The sad thing is that kebabs don't have to be seedy, be made of some unidentifiable protein or resemble an Elephant's foot.    They can be low fat, packed with the nutritious good stuff and be very cost effective to make.   

There are a couple of cheats you can exercise here if you want to accelerate the progression of kebab from shopping basket to stomach.   No.1 - shop bought houmous is a very acceptable (if slightly more expensive) cheat.   No.2 - You may also substitute the garlic yoghurt for shop bought Tzatziki.    Cheat No.3 - shop bought flat breads are also OK.   Another option are the amazing Bristol made Abunoor pitta breads sold in the 'Better Food Company' shops in St Werburgh's and on White Ladies Road.

At the pub we had some Somerset lamb leg and pizza dough left over from the weekend - I just couldn't help myself, I had to put kebabs on the menu and very popular they are too (especially with several ice cold pints - old habits die hard!).   For four:

Thick lamb leg steaks - 500g
Tinned Chickpeas, drained - 1x 400g tin
Tahini (Optional) - 2tbsp
Lemon Juice - 3 lemons worth
White Cabbage, finely shredded - 200g
Large Ripe Tomatoes, seeded and finely diced - 3
Cucumber, seeded removed and finely diced - 1/2
Red Onion, finely chopped - 1/2
Fresh Coriander, finely chopped - 1 small bunch
Fresh Mint, finely chopped - 1/2 small bunch
Harissa Paste - 1 tbsp
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - 150ml
Garlic - 2 heads
Quality Greek Yoghurt (Total Brand) - 1 small tub
Strong White Flour - 500g
Dried Yeast - 1 tbsp
Salt and Pepper

The night before, season your yoghurt with salt and tip into a cloth lined sieve over a bowl.   A clean Jey cloth or tea towel works well here.   Put in the fridge and allow to drain overnight -  this makes the yoghurt much thicker.

An hour before you want to eat, remove 2 cloves of garlic from the heads, foil wrap the remainder and bake at 200c for 30 mins.    Put the flour and yeast and a pinch of salt in a bowl.   Add some blood temperature water (approx 200ml) and knead well until you have a soft elastic dough.   Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place to prove.    Next make the houmous - tip the chickpeas, 2 cloves of garlic, the tahini, juice of 1 lemon and 100ml of the olive oil into a food processor and blend until smooth.   Season and add more lemon if required.   If the mixture is too thick add a little water.    

For the salad, mix the cabbage, tomato, coriander, mint, cucumber and onion in a bowl and refrigerate.   When the roast garlic is soft, cut through the middle of each head and squeeze out the pulp discarding the skins.   Mix into the strained yoghurt (discard the juice in the bowl) with a pinch of salt.     Last thing, mix the harissa paste with a little oil and lemon juice to make a runny oily dressing.   Right - now the cooking:

There are several ways to cook your flat bread depending on what equipment you have at home.   You can use a barbeque, griddle pan, large frying pan, grill or oven - the method is basically the same.   Knock back (knead) the doughball to remove some of the air and divide into 4.   Flour a work surface and roll out the balls to an approx 30cm circle.   Rub a little oil into both surfaces and sprinkle with salt - bake, fry or grill using a high heat for a minute or so on each side until the bread is cooked and golden in places.   Thin bread is the key to success here.

Meanwhile season and cook your lamb in a hot frying pan or on the barbeque - you want it medium really but the cooking times depend on the thickness of the lamb steaks.   Keep prodding the meat with your finger - it is medium when the outside is nicely browned but there is still a little bit of 'spring' in the middle.   Allow to rest for a few mins.     To assemble the dish, put the warm flatbread on a plate, add a spoonful of garlic yoghurt and one of houmous.   Dress the salad with lemon juice and olive oil and put a good handful on each flatbread.    Slice the warm lamb thinly and divide between the plates and dress with the fiery harissa to taste.   

The plating of this dish allows a minor experiment in behavioural science to be conducted.    The culturally evolved will tear the flat bread base into chunks and dip daintily into the houmous and yoghurt.   Others will roll up the lot and stuff into their gobs like slavering animals.   Could be an interesting test of a potential partner if you are on a first date.    Actually, what would more interesting is the type of person who would serve a kebab on a first date........Erm......I'm going to stop writing now.

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