nut and mozzarella lamb kebabs

nut, mozzarella and lamb kebabs
Silvena Rowe's Purple Citrus + Sweet Perfume is a glorious adventure in the food of the Eastern Mediterranean. This is the cuisine of the Ottoman Empire; of the Oriental Mediterranean from eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Crimea to Turkey, the Lebanon and Syria. A style of cooking that certainly here in Britain, we seem to be much less familiar with. If this is a best kept secret in the culinary world then it is one that is screaming out to be made heard. So please pass it on!

Ottoman cooking is a fabulous combination of different styles of cooking, using a wide variety of ingredients. It seems to be a perfect meeting place of East meets West - sweet meets sour - a combination of European, Persian and middle Eastern cookery from Hungary in the West to Jordan in the east, centred around Constantinople, (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire. Actually if you want to read a series of lovely novels set in nineteenth century Constantinople (the Ottoman capital city), then read the Yassim the Eunuch novels, by Jason Goodwin, where the food plays a delightful role in the plots of these novels.

I was looking for something slightly different to do with some minced lamb. I do love my Middle Eastern flavours and this recipe which Silvena Rowe calls Al Halabi Style Kebabs with Walnuts and Pine Nuts served with Potato Moutabel, seemed to press all the right buttons for me. Apparently Al Halabi is the name of a hotel restaurant in Damascas, Syria.

Serves 4
Skill level: Easy

500g minced lamb, finely chopped
10 x mint leaves, finely chopped
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground white pepper
80g walnuts, finely chopped
80g pine nuts, chopped
1 x small red pepper, finely chopped
80g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
100g mozzarella, finely chopped
2 x large baking potatoes, baked in their jackets and mashed (use the skins too as they have bags of flavour)
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp hemp seeds (to serve - optional)


  1. Begin by making the kebabs. Combine all the kebab ingredients together in a bowl. Knead them together for up to 10 mins so that the kebabs from a sticky mass, a bit like a dough.
  2. Either make small balls of the kebab mixture - about the size of a golf ball.
  3. Alternatively use bamboo skewers (which have been soaked in cold water for 30 minutes) and form the kebabs around the top end of the skewer. You should have enough mixture to make about 10 to 12 kebabs.
  4. Put the kebabs in the fridge (or freezer) for about 20 to 30 minutes, to firm up, before cooking.
  5. Make the moutbel by combining all the ingredients (except for the hemp seeds).
  6. Preheat the grill and grill the kebabs for about 8 to 10 minutes, turning every few minutes to ensure even cooking. These are even more delicious if cooked on a barbecue. But you can cook them in the oven too. (This takes about 20 minutes at 200 C / Gas Mark 6).
  7. Sprinkle the hemp seeds over the moutabel and serve with the kebabs.

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