Sheesh! Kebabs

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sheesh summary: adventures with new kebab skewers; great shish kebabs; SAVEUR comes through yet again; do you have an ’empty’ drawer in the kitchen? We do…; (click on image(s) for larger views and more photos)

skewersDo you have a drawer full of various kinds of barbecue skewers?
We do.

We have thin wooden skewers, long twisty metal skewers, long square skewers, long v-shaped blade skewers and round metal handled skewers. We were very close to having wide flat bladed skewers too…. We keep the skewers beside the fondue forks in the drawer that we call the “empty drawer”.

When we moved into our house eons ago, we were amalgamating two small apartments. We couldn’t believe how much space we had! For years, there was one empty drawer in the kitchen that we used as a kitchen linens laundry hamper.

Then the year that we got the fondue set, we decided that fondue forks wouldn’t get in the way and could easily be stored in the empty drawer. And there was indeed plenty of room to keep using it as a laundry hamper.

But. The empty drawer is not even close to being empty now. And now it’s even fuller. Because that’s where the kebab skewers are languishing.

[I]n India Town, we found zillions of almost the right skewers. They were exactly the right width and cost $3 each. But they were as long as swords. If we had a tandoor, we’d have got them. But we decided against them, knowing they would neither fit on our bikes to get them home, nor in any of the kitchen drawers. […]

I’m happy to report that this weekend, we found almost exactly what we were looking for at St. Lawrence Market. They are not flat and wide but T is thrilled. They were around $3 each – stainless steel with bamboo handles.

-me, chapli kebabs | blog from OUR kitchen

skewersWe immediately tried them out with shami kebabs (alas, no photographic proof) and T was out of his mind with joy. Alas, I’m not quite so sophisticated; I’m afraid that I don’t really notice much difference between shami kebabs and chapli kebabs. Don’t get me wrong. Both kinds are completely delicious. But the only difference I can detect is that the chapli kebabs seem easier to make than shami kebabs.

Even more than ground meat kebabs, I love cubed meat kebabs. I begged T to make them for me.

I was really looking forward to cubed pieces of pork that had been marinating in a Turkish kebab mixture that we read about in the recent “grilling” issue of SAVEUR magazine. T marinated the meat and then after coarsely chopping peppers and mushrooms, he called me to help him put the kebabs together. Here’s how the conversation went:

he: Look! I figured out how to put the mushroom on without breaking it. You just put the skewer [threading a quarter mushroom through the stem] through the stem and it… HEY!!! [drops the broken bits of mushroom to the board] … the last one didn’t break like this!!

me: Can I try?

he: Sure. [mutter mutter] Go [struggling to poke a hole in the slippery meat cube] ahead.

me: I think that if you [threading a quarter mushroom through the cap] YES!! Put it through the cap. Now do I put a piece of meat on? [struggling to poke a hole in the slippery meat cube] This is going to be great! … HEY!!! [holds onto unpierced meat cube and drops broken bits of mushroom to the board] How do people do this?!

he: We’re never going to have dinner at this rate. I’m getting the barbecue wok out.

So that’s what we did! Here is the recipe we followed:

Turkish Sheesh! Kebabs
based on the recipe for Tavuk Kebabi in SAVEUR no. 157


  • 125ml olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped finely
  • 2 dried red chiles, chopped finely
  • 2 tsp thyme, chopped finely
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp Turkish sweet red pepper paste ¹
  • pepper and salt, to taste


  • pork butt cut into cubes ²
  • red pepper, chopped coarsely
  • mushrooms, quartered
  • medium onions, quartered
  • asparagus (optional)
  • olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste


  • Barbecue
  • 4 good size metal skewers
  • 2 barbecue woks
  1. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a largish non-reactive bowl. Add cubed pork and toss to coat well. Cover with a plate and leave it in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.
  2. Turn the gas grill to high. Remove pork from marinade. Thread a mushroom piece onto a skewer. Set broken pieces of mushroom aside. Attempt to thread pork cube onto a skewer. Have a fit that there is NO way that this is going to work. Toss skewers into a bowl of hot sudsy water and fetch the barbecue woks. Put the meat into one of the woks and stir-fry it on hottest part of grill until the pork is nicely browned and caramelized and cooked through.
  3. Toss the vegetables in olive oil and put them into the other barbecue wok and stir-fry until they are done. Put the meat and vegetables on a platter and toss together.

Serve immediately with couscous, rice or flatbread. Garnish with fresh herbs from the garden. Don’t even think about what to do with all those skewers.


1.) Turkish red pepper sauce: Apparently, this red pepper paste is available in specialty supermarkets. But it’s really easy to make. It’s very similar to the red pepper sambal we’ve made in the past. It’s basically 1 red pepper, cored, seeded and chopped; 1 or 2 fresh red chilis, chopped; 0.25 tsp salt; a pinch of sugar; a splash of water and 1 Tbsp olive oil. Whir them in a food processor until they're smooth. Pour into a pot on medium heat and stirring from time to time, cook until the mixture thickens and turns deep red. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Any left-overs keep in the fridge for about a week.

2.) Cubed: Next time, we plan to simply score the meat, slather it with the marinade and barbecue it in one piece. That way, we will only have to use one of the barbecue woks.

dinner Once again, dinner was fabulous!! We quickly forgot about our disappointment that we hadn’t used the skewers.

Initially, we were going to serve this on rice. But it was so hot and sticky in the kitchen that we decided to switch to couscous with preserved lemons. A good switch. The pieces of preserved lemon went especially well with the asparagus.

SAVEUR No. 157 has a number of articles devoted to grilling with recipes and tips galore. Alas, there is NOTHING about how to skewer cubes of meat onto a skewer…. :stomp: :stomp:

A quick look at 8 Ways to Skewer Kebabs was interesting. Especially interesting was the fact that there was no photo of our latest V bladed skewers.

I leafed through a little more:

[P]eople have been cooking their meat on swords, sticks, and skewers over an open fire for eight centuries. My Russian family keeps the tradition alive each summer, balancing skewers of marinated lamb shoulder and onions over coals on a mangal, a grateless grill. We serve them traditionally, slathered in salty, tangy sauces, which perfectly complement the richness of the meat.

– Juliya Madorskaya, Secrets of the Grill: Kebabs, p. 95, SAVEUR No. 157

But reading further for a few more hints? No. Nothing about HOW to get the meat onto the skewers!

Further leafing. And… wait a minute, maybe THIS is the one…

Shaping Kebabs To shape ground lamb kebabs [such as Simit Kebab (Ground Lamb, Bulgur, and Pistachio Kebabs)] wet hands and form meat mixture into a ball […]

– Ansel Mullins, Shaping Kebabs, Keepers of the Flame: The ancient art of grilling kebabs in Gaziantep, Turkey, p. 56, SAVEUR No. 157

But no. Still nothing about how to skewer cubed raw meat. Any ideas?




This entry was posted in 'Saveur' Magazine review, cookbooks, etc., equipment and techniques, food & drink, posts with recipes, whine on by .

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