I am riding the Harissa wave again. It happens once in a while in my life when I want to using this ravishing condiment in about anything I cook.
The kebabs are quite simple to make. If you already have the harissa they are even easier. They are wonderful for a quick meal or a platter of appetizers.
The flavors of this condiment with its roots set deep into the soils of northern Africa, are so rich and alluring. The caraway marries mint and they keep their relationship going strong and steady. Chili peppers and garlic of course spice it up in their own ways. Then there are those other spices which subtly maintain the vibrancy of their kinship.
Spring break just went by for us. We were blessed with fabulous weather and blue skies. We rested and took a short trip to Austin only to realize that the town was vibrantly booming with the SXSW Festival. We took it slow. Woke up late.
Then we sauntered into the Mayfield Park where the peacocks flaunted themselves gorgeously, charming not just their female friends but all the human beings who stood in awe as they displayed the feathers and shook and danced…
with sunlight shimmering and glistening on their precious, sparkling jewels like feathers.
The trees had just started to bloom.
It was surreal with such beauty around us.
After the park, we headed out to the downtown and spent the entire day until evening listening to concerts.
Among all the captivating moments in our trip, my favorite was however the gorgeous sunset over Lake Travis.
As we watched the riot of colors unfurl across the sky, and spread a feeling of calm as if the worries of the world melted in to the molten golden rays rippling in the water.
The noise of some few hundred people in The Oasis almost hushed into a silence for a few moments when the sun took its final dip and disappeared beyond the horizon.
I found harissa a few years back and since then it has become a staple condiment in our home. A little jar keeps in the refrigerator for emergency meals. A paratha layered with harisaa makes it ever so special. Stuff eggplants with this fiery red and you have got yourself a special meal. Sear the shrimp or little bites of chicken and you can serve a quick appetizer which dissapears before you wink.
It is indeed a magic ingredient.
Use harissa with caution: it is super spicy.
I would recommend adding extra caraway to the harissa for the kebab and also an extra fistful of mint. It really makes a difference.
Harissa Marinated Minced Meat Kebab
Ingredients: (makes about 12 small skewers, serves 2-3 for a meal and about 4-6 as appetizer)
- 1 lb minced meat (I have used minced chicken)
- 1.5 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup (8 oz cup measure) Harissa (or adjust amount to taste) ** + some extra to brush on the kebabs
- 1.5 tablespoon dried mint, crushed
- 1/4 cup thinly slivered fresh mint leaves
- 1 tablespoon corn starch (Optional: this just helps hold the meat on the sticks better while grilling as a sort of a binder)
- oil for brushing while grilling
- salt to taste
- fresh mint, lemon and sliced onion for garnish
I served this with Mint Yogurt. (Whisk thick creamy yogurt with slivered or pounded fresh mint leaves. Add salt to taste and garnish with Sumac). You can use any kind of condiment you want.
**Note: The most important thing to keep in mind here is that the Harissa is very, very spicy. So use it with carefully. If the Harissa is already made, you might want to use some extra caraway seeds and fresh/or dried mind if you like the flavors. If you are making Harissa at home particularly for this kebab, consider using less chili peppers or peppers that are less spicy or substitute part of the spicy peppers with roasted red peppers
The proportion of meat to Harissa is approximate here; I have mentioned only what I have used. Please adjust to how you want it and what kind of spices and herbs you want to add. The primary flavor from Harissa is that that if peppers, garlic and caraway seeds along with subtle flavors of the few other spices. So play around with the spices as it suits your taste buds.
(Keep in mind that the cooking time will change if you use a different kind of meat other than chicken. So please adjust.)
Combine all ingredients for the kebabs, except for ingredients in the garnish in a bowl. Make sure you mix well and use your hands if required. Allow it to sit for about four hours for the flavors to infuse. Overnight is okay (refrigerate if marinating overnight).
If you are using bamboo skewers make sure they are soaked for about 2 hours to prevent burning while grilling.
If the meat is refrigerated, take it out and allow it to come to room temperature.
When ready to cook, brush the grill with oil (I have used a stove top cast iron grill pan). Take a fist full of the meat and shape it like a sausage. Run the skewer through it and flatten the meat if you wish. Repeat until you have used up all the meat. I find it easier to place the skewers on the grill as I keep making them, one at a time. Brush the top with oil or some harissa and allow them to cook on medium heat. After a few minutes (about four minutes) when the underside starts to get cooked flip it over and cook the other side. Brush each side with oil as you flip them and you might need to do this a couple of times.
The meat should be cooked through in about 12 minutes. The cooking time should be adjusted if you are using any other meat. Make sure they are browned on the outside and cooked completely on the inside.
Just before you take them off the heat, brush them with some harissa, cook for about half a minute and remove from heat.
The kebabs may be cooked on an outdoor BBQ or even on a skillet or a pan on the stove top. If you are cooking on a pan, the only thing you will miss is the grill marks. (Note: The marinated meat may be cooked in the shape of a burger patty on the grill or the skillet.)
Once done, remove and keep them wrapped in foil to keep them warm or serve them right away with of onion and/or grilled vegetables with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon and fresh mint. They are good by themselves, or served with any grains like cousous or rice, or wrapped in/with Naan or even in a sandwich/roll .
Preparation Time: 10 minutes (more if you are making the Harissa)
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty Level: Easy
Serves: makes about 12 small skewers, serves 2-3 for a meal and about 4-6 as appetizer
- Stuffed Meatballs with Grilled Scallions & Orange Mint Yogurt Sauce
- Sausages with Mushroom, Onion and Dried Fruits
- Sheekh Kabab with Jeera Rice (Skewered Chicken with Rice)
- Keema, Matar, Aloo: Minced Meat with Peas and Potatoes
- Homemade Pitas with Grilled Chicken Patties & a Salad
- Murgh Tikka – Spiced Skewered Chicken
- Murgh Tikka Hariyali/Skewered Green (Herbed) Chicken
- Murg Malai Tikka Kabab
- Mint Flavored Minced Meat Kebab/Rolls