While not the traditional menu we had a feast in honor of thanks and understanding. It wasn't too difficult to settle on the Middle East as the inspiration for our gathering. One reason is that the food is yummy but also the ingredients, while unfamiliar, are available here. Also, while the power supply has been pretty consistent (thanks, ZESCO), we can't really plan a big gathering that depends on having electricity all day. So, we always do big dinners that involve a lot of day-ahead recipes and an hour before guests are due we fire up our giant 55 gal drum grill. The logic of getting some lamb from the local butcher vs. a turkey from Brazil also was a strong incentive for a non-traditional menu. I won't bore you with the details except to say that it was yummy, the table was overflowing with sides and sauces and figs and dates and grape leaves and litchees and pineapples and falafel, the most amazing falafel I've ever had......I only thought about wool once or twice.*
I will share our lamb and chicken kebab recipes:
Jooleh Kebabs (chicken)
for the marinade:
1/2 teaspoon safron threads (I'm certain you could skip this without any grave consequence -- it's really expensive but I know even TJs used to stock it in a teeny tiny little glass jar. Myself, I have a lifetime supply of the stuff which I got for a few shillings on Zanzibar)
1T warm water
1-1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1t ground pepper
2 chickens (or 2 chickens worth of parts.....we used cubed boneless/skinless breast meat and put them on skewers with great results)
For the Basting mixture
1/4 t safron threads (again, leave this ingredient out as necessary)
1T fresh lemon juice
3T melted unsalted butter
Marinate overnight. Grill. yum. eat with couscous salad and some yummy spinach.
For the meat, I found lamb legs and lamb arms (don't ask) at the butcher's already cut into 'steaks' or chops. I beat them (b/c they were naughty) to tenderize and then I cut them into cubes. B/c I am so squeamish still about meat the dog has month worth of scraps and gristle and bones for all my efforts) I marinated them overnight in lemon, salt and honey and rosemary (as suggested by Donna Hay) first.
I kept aside half of the lamb to cook as is (further basted with a lemon/honey glaze at the grill/braii). The other half I marinated a few hours in the below (I may have made double this recipe, too, I can't remember. I do remember that I was so clever to reserved half of the marinade (that the meat didn't touch) to cook down into an amazing sauce to accompany everything at the table)
At any rate, the sauce/spice butter/marinade ingredients:
1 stick butter
5 cloves garlic
1/3 c chopped fresh mint leaves (or pos 2T dried mint leaves)
1T ground coriander
1T sweet paprika
2t ground cumin
rub half of this on the lamb. set aside the other half for the basting sauce and the table sauce:
In a saucepan on the stove add:
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3T white wine vinegar or lemon juice
16 fresh mint leaves slivered
2 cups broth or other liquid (I added water b/c my beautiful quail stock was in the freezer in a container that I couldn't microwave)
salt to taste
ground cumin to taste
to cook sauce, melt butter, add onionand garlic (saute 5 min or until just starting to brown), add vinegar, mint and bring to a boil (DON'T try to smell it while the vinegar boils off, it'll singe your nostrils something fierce! Not that I know, ahem, from experience.) Stir in the broth/water and simmer to reduce. mix in the spiced butter at the end of cooking. I let this mixture cool and then ran it through the blender but you could leave the sauce chunky). Check the flavor and add any other thing you think is missing. (more salt? more cumin? some corriander or tumeric for good measure?)
Use 1/2 of this mixture for basting and set aside half to serve as a sauce.
*Our good friend Ben can't/wont eat lamb b/c he is convinced it tastes like old wool. We took a pass on the thrift-store-sweater-marinade, but of course now I can't prepare lamb EVER without thinking of Ben and of course my favorite green cableknit sweater, all soggy from a rainy walk on the beach.
So (thanks Ben) in a sick way I also think of wool sweaters when I fix lamb. This does not deter me from eating it and strangely enough, enjoying it. A long marinade, by the way, is the key to making the sweater association Gucci vs. Goodwill....Versace vs Value Village.