Friday, 25 April 2014

Turkish (Lamb) Adana Kebabs / Kofta Kebabs - the Really Mouth-Watering Recipe... (AKA How to be a Kebab King/Queen!)

It may seem like I enthuse a lot over some of my recipes, but I only do that when I think they're really, really good and I've spent time perfecting them!

And this one, I tried making with different levels of herbs and spices, then different ratios of lamb and beef, and different fat proportions, until the combination of the spices, and the flavour and succulence of the meats just sang. Even thinking about how juicy and tasty these kebabs are, straight off a hot smoky barbecue makes my mouth water!

For me, there has to be lamb present as a majority. And I'm afraid it can't be lean, or extra lean lamb. If you're able to mince your own, or go to the butcher to buy your mince, then make sure it's from shoulder of lamb. The fat content is pivotal in getting those kebabs all juicy and sizzling and tasty ('Fat is flavour' as someone once said).

I've tried it with beef mince only, and for me, it just doesn't work. (Because the whole 'lamb' flavour is missing, obvs). Making it with lean or extra lean beef alone just yields a really dry result, I'm afraid. And I'm spoilt by having tasted really good Turkish Adana kebabs and being fortunate enough to have a really good Turkish restaurant within 20 minutes drive. Who cook their kebabs on a proper mangal, on top of burning coals. Mmmmm.

Anyway, I digress. I found my perfect balance of lamb vs. beef, and rather than using my local butcher, I used something from a supermarket, so that you can recreate exactly what I cooked and I know it will be good, rather than me getting all the good stuff, then you going down to [insert name of supermarket] and feeling like you got a duff deal. If you can cook this on the barbecue, you will be achieving near-as-damnit-perfection from a domestic point of view. So go on, give it a go... it's delicious served on top of my easy Turkish rice, with some Cacik as a dip (think Tzatziki) and a simple Vegetable Kebab as a must to compliment it, Turkish red cabbage salad, maybe a warm flatbread to hold it with and a side salad. And you can make them the day before, along with maybe my Turkish chicken shish kebabs (similarly perfected flavour-wise, of course!), and invite your best, most appreciative friends over to enjoy them with!

Oh, and it would be rather rude not to make them some of your own hummus, perfected with my recipe and tips, along with a selection of spiced pitta crisps to serve them with.

If you fancy making up a whole Turkish feast, with a shopping list and preparation plan then have a look here!

So, here you are... lamb-on-a-skewer perfection! And as for Adana/Kofta - if you want to impress your friends by telling them which of the two they're eating, use wide metal skewers, and shape the lamb around them in one length per skewer and call them Adana kebabs (and you could get away with a little more spiciness). Or if you want to call them Kofta kebabs, roll the lamb into walnut-sized balls and slide them onto a skewer. Me? I find it easiest to use soaked wooden skewers as the meat seems to stick better, and squidge the mince around them in a flatt-ish sausage shape and to hell with it - it tastes good any which way! Oh, and if you Google kofta kebabs (not the right spelling, but I've had to use it too, for continuity!), you'll see a lot of the well-known chefs get it wrong and just wrap it around the skewer in a sausage too... ;)

Makes 12 skewers, at 133 calories per skewer (two skewers per serving). Serves six as the protein part of the dish on its own, or more with other kebabs (e.g. alongside my chicken shish kebabs). [Calories in square brackets]

  • 400g good quality full fat minced lamb (not lean, I used Sainsbury's SO organic) [912]
  • 250g good quality lean minced beef (again, I used Sainsbury's) [530]
  • 1 large onion (or 2 small, 150g) [61]
  • 3 garlic cloves [18]
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cumin [12]
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon [7]
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice [8]
  • 1/3 tsp freshly ground black pepper [2]
  • 1/8 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste [3]
  • Quick grating of nutmeg [1]
  • 2 tbsp Turkish (red) pepper paste (available from ASDA, Melis brand - or substitute tomato puree and a tsp of paprika if you can't get hold of any) [28]
  • 1.5 tsp salt (use 0.5 to 1 to start with, before you check the seasoning and adjust it to your own tastes)
  • 20g fresh flat leaf parsley leaves (large handful) [7]
  • 10-15g fresh mint leaves (to taste, smaller handful) [7]
  • 12 small skewers, soaked for at least an hour before using if wooden or bamboo etc.
  • Plastic glove (or two) suitable for use with food, if you prefer

If possible, combine the meat, herbs and spices etc. a few hours ahead of cooking, or the night before, to allow the flavours to combine.

Peel the onion(s) and then grate on the coarse side of a good grater. Gently squeeze out some of the moisture, and transfer to a medium large bowl. Wash and finely chop the herbs, and add to the bowl also.

Crush the garlic into the bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, giving a quick stir before you add the meat on top, but only 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt, especially if you don't normally add it during cooking.

For the next part, I prefer to wear a plastic glove on the hand I'm working the meat with, as it sticks less, and the fat seems to melt less. Basically, you need to quickly but very thoroughly mix the meats, onion and garlic, and all the spices and herbs until thoroughly combined.

If you're able to, then cover it and put it back into the fridge for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight to allow the flavours to combine.

Here's the important, crucial part - before you start putting your meat mix on skewers, or anything like that, you really need to check the seasoning. Even if you think you know exactly how much they need. I didn't do it once, being complacent, and over-confident, and there just wasn't quite enough salt in them. So quickly stick the grill (USA broiler) on high, and put a teaspoon or so on a piece of foil, and put it under the grill, turning once or twice until cooked through and then taste it. It's best not done in a pan, as its likely to burn/caramelise which will interfere with your perception of the flavours. Then add more salt if it needs it. For me it's 1/5 tsp in total, but this might be too salty for some, which is why I've put to only add part of this to start with.

When you're ready to go, make sure you've soaked your skewers, and then I find it easiest to make sure my meat mix is flat in its bowl, and then with a sharp knife quickly cut it into appropriate sized wedges (so quarters, then each quarter into three, for 12 portions), which I can then just pick up to mold.

Pick up a 'wedge' of mince, squidge it into a flat sausage shape, press the skewer into the middle of it, then mold the meat around the skewer, until it's firmly on, and set aside to do the next one (again, I find this easiest to do wearing a plastic glove, as then they don't stick to my hand). Don't worry about making them perfectly round, just squidge them on, and you'll find they even themselves out when cooking.

You can chill the kebabs before cooking, to increase the firmness etc., but I find if I've just taken them out of the fridge, they're pretty cold anyway, so I don't really bother too much about this. They will also freeze really well, either raw or cooked (but better raw).

So, that's it! Get your barbecue (or grill, or griddle) pre-heated, and then get cooking. Ideally a barbecue is best, but realistically, we don't all want to get it out and clean it etc. for a kebab, so if you just want to experience a hint of charcoal, get your cast-iron ridged griddle out instead and put it on the hob, or just grill them. They'll still be delicious.

Make sure they're cooked through (maybe 8 minutes or more depending on the strength of your heat source), but they'll be relatively forgiving due to the fat content, and then enjoy them hot, straight off the BBQ - get everything else ready and waiting on your plate to receive your share while they're cooking so you can bite into one immediately and have the juices dribble down your chin!


  1. Made these for our dinner last night and they were truly delicious. With one half of the recipe I made Koftas and the other I made burgers, which I froze for another day. I served them with Andrea's red cabbage salad (made a slight tweet by adding a good slug of red wine vinegar.....I like the tartness), pitta bread and a mixed green salad. This would make a fantastic BBQ for the summer. Thanks again Andrea for a great recipe.

  2. I just followed the recipe and the kebabs turned out so Juicy I can believe how delicious they turned out! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe an absolute fave from now on!

    1. Thanks Kipz for your lovely comment - so glad you enjoyed them! I only made them myself this weekend to christen our BBQ this summer as we love them so much - one of the few recipes I've developed which I haven't changed at all over the years! :)


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