Arabs call them koftas. Iranians call them kubideh. Afghanis and Azerbaijanis know them as lula (or lyulya kebab), while Indians and Pakistanis call them seekh kebabs. Whatever you call them, ground meat molded on a skewer and grilled is one of the world’s most popular treats.
Kofta country begins in Morocco and stretches as far east as Bangladesh. Perhaps even further-you could certainly argue that Indonesia’s ground beef and lamb satés are actually a sort of kofta. The name, main ingredients, and flavorings change along the way, but the result remains the same. That result is a sort of skinless sausage. The secret is to mold a sausage-shaped span of meat on a flat metal skewer and cook it over a grateless grill.
At its simplest, kofta consists merely of ground lamb or beef flavored with onion, garlic, and parsley. Sometimes egg or cracked wheat is added to give the kebab a firmer consistency. Sometimes the meat is kneaded by hand in a pan over a low flame to create the close-knit texture of fine fabric. Cooks in the Balkans and Iran add baking soda or selzer water to make their mititeis and cevapcicis (the Balkan kofta) light.
The spicing, too, reflects the country of origin. As you move east, the cumin and paprika popular in Morocco give way to cinnamon and mint in the Middle East. Kebabi men in Central Asia flavor their lula kebab with hot peppers, dill, and cilantro. Indians turn to the evocative flavors of ginger, cumin, and turmeric to give their seekh (ground lamb) kebab pizzazz.
In this chapter, you’ll find many variations on a theme of ground meat grilled on a stick. To be strictly authentic, you’d cook these kebabs using the grateless grilling technique. If you’re careful and you oil the grate well, you can also cook the kebabs directly on the grate.
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