June 2009

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for June 2009.

Lahem or lahmeh means meat as a generic term. However, when we say lahem meshwi, we refer to lamb meat because that is what it traditionally was. Having said that and although the recipe title indicates lamb, a beef steak cubed and barbecued tastes equally nice. I use a very simple marinade based on olive oil and a herb, as for the meat, I go for a neck fillet or diced leg of lamb or beef rump steak. The choice is yours but make sure you select a nice tender cut.

 

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

 

·         750 g / 1 ½ lb lamb meat like neck fillet or leg. Alternatively, you could use beef rump steak.

·         Freshly milled salt and black pepper

·         1 tbsp ground allspice

·         50 ml / 2 fl oz extra virgin olive oil

·         1 tbsp dried or 2 tbsp fresh rosemary. Alternatively you could use the same amount of fresh thyme

·         250 g / 9 oz  onions preferably shallots but big ones will do.

 

You also need a medium sized glass or Pyrex dish.

 

To serve

 

·         450 g / 1 lb plain yoghurt

·         Lebanese or Arabic bread. Alternatively use pitta bread.

 

Method

 

  1. Cut the meat into suitable sizes for the skewers, trimming away excess fat. Transfer into the glass or Pyrex dish. Season with salt, pepper and allspice, add the rosemary (or fresh thyme) followed by the olive oil and mix well. Leave to marinate at room temperature for 2 hours. You can also prepare it the day before and leave it in the fridge overnight.
  2. When you are ready to cook, fire up the barbecue or pre-heat the grill to a medium setting. Rinse and quarter the onions leaving the skin on, if using shallots, cut them into halves. Now, thread the lamb or beef pieces onto the skewers, inserting the onions in-between. The meat pieces should not be too closely compacted together or they will not cook evenly. Barbecue or grill for about 12 minutes turning the skewers to ensure even cooking. You should end up with a nicely browned meat that is cooked through but not dry nor burnt.
  3. If you have to barbecue or grill in batches and at the same time keep the meat warm, here is the Lebanese way: Open up one or two warmed Lebanese bread and put inside the barbecued meat (leaving it on skewers). With its double layer, the bread will keep the meat warm, at the same time, it absorbs the excess unwanted fatty juices.   
  4. Just before serving the Sheesh Kebabs, warm up the remaining bread. Next, open up the warmed bread, put the skewers inside it (roughly 2 skewers per 1 bread), pull out the skewers off the meat and pass round the bread filled with the barbecued or grilled meat.
  5. We usually serve it with plain yoghurt. Some prefer it with Toomeh (see recipe in Sauces). Fattoush (Bread Salad: see recipe in Salads) makes also a nice accompaniment. So, for whatever you go for sahtein (a very Lebanese expression wishing doubly good health).

The term sheesh (means sword or skewer in modern usage) comes up very frequently in Lebanese cooking, in fact, it is originally Turkish. As history tells us, Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years, so this explains the usage of some Turkish words in our vocabulary.

Back to the recipe, you could use either deboned skinless chicken breasts or thighs. The basic ingredients of the marinade flavour the chicken with a succulent light taste that goes well with summer evenings. This is often served as part of a Lebanese Mixed Grill (Sheesh Taouk, Sheesh Kebab -lamb cubes- Kafta – see my recipe in Main Courses).

          

           Serves 4

 

Ingredients

 

  • 1 kg / 2 ¼ lb deboned and skinless chicken breasts or thighs.
  • Salt and freshly milled black pepper
  • 2 colourful peppers

 

     For the marinade

 

  • 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and crushed to a paste.
  • 100 ml / 3 ½ fl oz lemon juice
  • 200 ml / 7fl oz olive oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1½ tbsp strong mustard, (English mustard works well)

 

To serve:

 

  • Toomeh (See recipe in Sauces)
  • Lebanese or Arabic Bread (alternatively large Pitta bread)

 

Method

 

1.      Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Cut the breasts or thighs into the suitable sized pieces for the skewers and place in a glass or Pyrex dish. Season with salt and pepper.

2.      As for the marinade, mix thoroughly all the ingredients until well combined then tip over the chicken, making sure every bit of chicken pieces is smeared with the marinade. Cover and pop in the fridge for several hours or preferably overnight.

3.      When you are ready to cook, fire up the barbecue or pre-heat the grill to a medium setting. Wash and cut the peppers into cubes. Thread the chicken pieces into the skewers, inserting in between the cubed peppers. The chicken pieces should not be too closely compacted together or they will not cook evenly. Barbecue or grill for about 15 minutes turning the skewers to ensure an even cooking, baste if necessary with the remaining marinade. Make sure the chicken pieces are cooked all the way through. You should end up with a nicely browned meat that is cooked through but not dry nor burnt.

4.      If you have to barbecue or grill in batches while keeping at the same time the meat warm, here is the Lebanese way: Open up one or two warmed Lebanese bread (depending on the size and number of skewers) and put inside the barbecued meat, still on skewers. With its double layer, the bread will keep the meat warm, at the same time, it absorbs the excess fatty juices.  

5.      Just before serving the Sheesh Taouk, warm up the remaining bread. Next, open up the warmed bread, put the skewers inside it (roughly 2 skewers per 1 bread), pull out the skewers off the meat and pass round the bread filled with the barbecued or grilled chicken pieces.

6.      The essential accompaniment for this is Toomeh which is a delicious combination. Also, serve with Fattoush (Bread Salad: see recipe in Salads).  

 

 

 

The addition of yoghurt gives this dish a kick of freshness, which is so appealing at the end of a hot summer day. We usually use spaghetti, though it is called macaroni in Lebanon. My mother preferred to cook with any left-over cooked plain spaghetti (few hours or one day old), she said that it better absorbs the mingling flavours of garlic and coriander, so this is another advantage if you have any left-overs.

 

Serves 4.

 

Ingredients.

 

  • 400g / 14 oz dried spaghetti or the same amount of cooked left-over spaghetti
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and crushed
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 450g / 1 lb plain yoghurt, you could use either: full or half fat

 

Method.

 

  1. If you are using dried spaghetti, cook according to manufacturer’s instructions then drain well. If using cooked old spaghetti, go straight to step 2.
  2. A few minutes before the finishing cooking time, heat up the oil in a large deep saucepan and sauté the crushed garlic with 1 tbsp coriander for 1 or 2 minutes. Tip in the cooked spaghetti and toss together well, cook for about 3 minutes making sure that the spaghetti and garlic mixture are well combined, add the remaining coriander and mix well.
  3. Finally, mix in the yoghurt and serve at once.