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The Independent Culture
The kebab, food cooked on skewers, is one of the oldest recorded forms of cooking. Indeed almost the most primitive. It may not have originated in Persia but the word does, kebab referring to the grilling process rather then the skewering.

By the seventh and eighth centuries Persia had raised this sort of cooking to an art form, laying down the principles. Meat must be cooked on long flat blades (never round ones or the meat spins as you turn it) and the long heating of the barbecue or grill up to an hour to achieve the right degree and quality of heat.

The kebab is not an excuse for using up tough meat, as you might assume from the practices of some Greek-Cypriot restaurants in London.

Some of the tastiest kebabs are made with finely minced meat. Here is a version of this recipe found in the Arab Middle East; along with the famous 'kebab" of south-east Asia, skewered satay sticks of marinated chicken with spice peanut sauce (from Savouring the East by award-winning New Zealand writer, David Burton, one of the most readable books of its kind. Faber pounds 15.99). Plus an original grilled fruit kebab, created specially for us by Maria Elia, the innovative young chef at Delfina in Bermondsey Street, SE1.

TROPICAL FRUIT KEBABS

Makes 4 kebabs

12 pineapple, peeled

1 mango, peeled

1 papaya, peeled and deseeded

1 dragon fruit, peeled

2 kiwis, peeled

8 lychees, peeled and de-stoned

12 lime leaves, washed

4 lemongrass, outer leaves removed

For the glaze:

250g/8oz palm sugar (or demerara sugar)

1 small red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

20g/12oz ginger, peeled and finely chopped

juice of 6 limes

2 teaspoons chopped mint

To make the glaze soften the palm sugar in a saucepan over a low heat, add the chilli and ginger and cook until caramelised, add the lime juice and return to the heat. Bring to the boil and add the mint just before serving.

To make the kebabs, cut the fruits into rough shapes as you desire. Trim the outer leaves from the lemongrass stalk and thread the fruits through. Place on a baking tray and place under a pre-heated grill for three minutes on either side. Serve hot drizzled with glaze, or serve separately on the side.

KOFTE KEBAB

Serves 4

500g/1lb Iamb, trimmed of fat

1 onion finely chopped

4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

1 tablespoon paprika powder

2 teaspoons ground coriander seed

1teaspoon ground cumin

12 red chilli pepper

pinch allspice

salt to taste

Vegetable oil for brushing meat

Chop meat, and pulse in the food processor till fine. This is actually a great job for the out-of fashion meat mincer (available at all good boot sales). Put the meat through the fine blade twice.

Mix the meat with the onion, parsley and spices. Using a tablespoon, make compact oval shapes, and slide two or more on to each skewer. You need flat metal blades long enough to rest on the edges of a roasting pan or oven dish.

Place under a very, very hot grill (this is ideal barbecuing food, of course). Brush with oil and cook for two minutes on each side. Serve with salad and steaming rice.

CHICKEN SATAY WITH PEANUT SAUCE

The magic ingredient is tamarind, which replaces the more usual lemon juice and soy sauce.

For the satay:

1kg chicken (or lamb)

112 tablespoons dried tamarind

1 large onion

2-3 cloves garlic

walnut-sized piece of fresh root ginger

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon lemon peel

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Bone the chicken (or lamb), then cut across the grain into fairly thin slices, about 7-8mm (13in) thick. Cut these slices into smaller pieces, aiming for squares wherever possible. The idea of thin, flat squares is to allow the marinade to penetrate over a wider area, and to ensure quick cooking later.

Break the tamarind into small pieces, pour over four tablespoons of boiling water, and allow to stand five minutes, Meanwhile, peel the onion, garlic and ginger and pulverise in a food processor (or pound or chop very finely by hand).

Squeeze the tamarind in the water to extract the pulp from the pith and seed, then strain it into the onion mixture and add the remaining ingredients. Mix well, stir in the chicken (or lamb) and leave, covered, to marinate for at least six hours, preferably overnight.

Soak bamboo skewers in cold water for an hour. Thread three or four pieces on to each skewer and cook over glowing charcoal, turning when the meat begins to show brown patches. They should only need a few minutes per side.

Serve with peanut sauce, recipe shown above.

PEANUT SAUCE

You can "roast" the peanuts by dry-frying them in a hot pan. When cool, rub off the skins.

75g/3oz roosted peanuts

6 dried small hot chillies, soaked

1 medium onion

1 clove garlic

5 candle nuts or macadamias

34 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

2 tablespoons oil

375ml/23pt coconut cream

2 teaspoons dried tamarind

1 teaspoon brown sugar

salt to taste

Pulverise the peanuts in a food processor with a little oil (or substitute five tablespoons of peanut butter). Set aside.

Pulverise the chillies, onion, garlic and nuts in a food processor (or pound or chop very finely by hand). Fry in oil over a low heat for four to five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the lemon peel and coconut cream and bring almost to the boil, then add peanuts, tamarind (soaked in four tablespoons of boiling water and strained), brown sugar and salt to taste.

Serve at room temperature.

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