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Seekh Kebab Naanwich
March 2023
Reading time 1 Minute

Kashmiris love a kebab - beef, chicken or lamb - and there is a huge variety of kebabs ranging from boti kebabs, which are made from chunks of marinated meat, to finely ground galouti kebabs designed for toothless moghul nawabs

It is widely believed that it was Turkish traders who introduced the kebab to India, originating from 'shish kebab'. Shish is the Turkish word for 'sword', which Turkish soldiers used to skewer meat and grill on an open fire. Seekh kebabs are made from shaping spiced minced meat around a skewer, to form that iconic cylindrical shape. Mine are served with a Kashmiri lavasa naan and a yoghurt and walnut chutney, which is served with wazwan dishes.
4-6 Kebabs
  • 1 large brown onion
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • 1½ teaspoons basar masala
  • 2 teaspoons minced chillies, or to taste
  • 15g garlic, grated
  • 15g ginger, grated
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • 500g lamb or beef mince
  • vegetable oil
  • yoghurt and walnut chutney
  • lavasa naan
  • Garnish
  • pomegranate seeds
  • finely sliced red onion
  • finely sliced radishes
  • finely sliced cucumber
  • deep-fried green finger chillies, sprinkled with chaat masala
  • For the Lavasa Naan Bread
  • 5g easy-blend dried yeast
  • 50ml warm water
  • 5g caster sugar
  • 230g plain flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • For the Yoghurt and Walnut Chutney
  • 1/2 a red onion, grated
  • 1 green chilli, finely sliced
  • 5g fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 200g thick Greek yoghurt or labneh
  • 25g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • For the Basar Masala
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 8 green cardamoms
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 5cm cassia bark or cinnamon, broken into pieces
  • 1 level teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 mace blade (or 1/4 teaspoon ground mace)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons mild
  • Kashmiri chilli powder
  • a generous pinch of nutmeg
  1. Grate the onion using a box grater, using long sweeps – you don’t want a mush. Place the contents in the middle of a clean tea towel or muslin cloth, gather up the edges, twist the loose fabric, and squeeze out all the liquid. These grated onions need to be as dry as possible. Place them in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the cumin, fennel, salt, basar masala, minced chillies, garlic, ginger and chopped coriander to the bowl. Mix together with a fork. Test a little and check the seasoning.
  3. Now mix the minced meat into the onion mixture; use your hands – they’re the best tool.
  4. Cook a little test patty in a frying pan with a scant amount of oil in it. This is a foolproof way to check that the seasoning is spot on, and your last chance to make any adjustments.
  5. Divide the seasoned mince into four or six equal parts, and shape each one around a metal or soaked bamboo skewer to form a cylindrical kebab. Have a bowl full of water handy – wet palms will stop the mixture sticking to your hands.
  6. Grill until the kebabs are cooked through, turning so all sides get some heat. You could use your oven grill, in which case set it to the highest temperature and place the kebabs as close to the hot grill as possible, or on a barbecue. They will take around eight to 10 minutes. You can refrigerate the kebabs beforehand to allow them to firm up, and prep ahead.
  7. Wrap your kebab in the lavasa naan to make a naanwich. You can either load up the naan before you roll or serve the garnishes and yoghurt dip separately. Would it be rude to have this with chips? I think not, go for it! This is a lovely and simple naan recipe that you can easily recreate at home, if you have a gas hob. You will need a tawa (a flat, round cast-iron pan) for this, though I have seen these cooked over coals or wood in a kadhai firebowl (like a wok), and you can use an upside-down dome-shaped cast-iron karahi: place it inside the firebowl to heat, then place the naan on the scorching hot karahi dome. Certainly a lot of theatre for your guests! You could make these in a non-stick frying pan, but you won’t get the same effect – and skip the water step or you’ll wreck your pan – though the naans will still be very tasty, especially when slathered with garlic and coriander butter!

Lavasa Naan Bread

Makes 4 naans

  1. The first thing to do is ‘bloom’ the yeast. Place it in a small bowl with the warm water and sugar, and set aside for 10 minutes, by which time it will have bubbled up and activated.
  2. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, then tip in the yeast mixture. Splay your fingers and start mixing. You will need some additional water to bring this into a dough – I used about 110ml, but this will vary.
  3. Knead the dough for seven to eight minutes – you want a smooth dough that is neither too firm nor too soft, but somewhere in between. Place in a clean bowl and cover with cling film. Let it rest in a warm place for one to two hours, until it has doubled in size.
  4. When you are ready to make the naan, heat your tawa on the maximum heat setting of your gas hob.
  5. Knock the dough back, give it a light knead to bring it into a smooth dough again, and divide it into four equal portions. Take a portion and roll it into an 18–20cm circle on a lightly floured surface. Brush the side facing you with water – this will help it to stick to the tawa.
  6. Place the wet side on the hot tawa, gently pressing it down. When you see the naan bubble up, carefully flip the tawa, holding it above the naked flame so the uncooked side can cook over direct heat. You are effectively recreating what happens in a tandoor oven.
  7. Using tongs, remove the cooked naan from the tawa and repeat. You may wish to slather your naan with garlic and coriander butter (see cook’s note).

Cook’s Note

You can whip up the garlic and coriander butter by mixing a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh coriander, a grated garlic clove and a sprinkling of salt into 75–100g of softened butter.

Yoghurt and Walnut Chutney 

The majority of India’s walnut (akhrot) production comes from Kashmir. I remember my granny would always have a stash of walnuts at Christmas, which is what I associate them with – as well as lychees, apricots, almonds, pomegranates and much more. These are all grown in Kashmir, which neighbours Punjab, and she had a knack for sniffing out the best produce. This chutney is served with rich wazwan meat dishes and is a lovely accompaniment to the seekh kebab opposite.

  1. Use a muslin cloth or similar to squeeze out the water from the grated onion, otherwise the chutney will be sloppy. Put the onion into a mixing bowl and add the finely sliced chilli, then chop the mint and chuck that in too, along with the salt.
  2. Finally mix through the yoghurt, followed by the walnuts, then taste and make any adjustments. Refrigerate until serving.

Basar Masala 

You can buy this masala from an Indian grocer, but nothing beats making your own.

  1. Toast all the spices – apart from the chilli powder and nutmeg – in a dry frying pan on a medium heat. Stir continuously and don’t let any spices burn. The aromas will soon waft up. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  2. Using a coffee or spice grinder, grind the spices to a powder, and mix with the chilli powder and nutmeg.
  3. Store in a sterilised airtight container. If kept out of direct sunlight in a cool, dry place, it will keep for up to a year. (You can tell a masala should be discarded when it has lost its fragrant aroma).
Desi Kitchen by Sarah Woods, published by Penguin Michael Joseph (£30) Photography by Liz & Max Haarala Hamilton

Desi Kitchen by Sarah Woods, published by Penguin Michael Joseph (£30) Photography by Liz & Max Haarala Hamilton

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