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How to make really terrible kebabs
Marryam H Reshii |
August 23, 2005
Last week I visited a restaurant and ordered a plate of assorted kebabs. Two of them were so terrible that I actually spat out the first mouthful. It set me wondering about that most basic of all north Indian foods.
It's not difficult to spoil a kebab. Get the oldest bird or animal your supplier can give you. But, before that, you have to find a really horrendous supplier. One who never gives you a one-year-old lamb -- ever. That way, you'll ensure your lamb is tough and flavourless.
And never get the hind leg; for disgusting kebabs, it has to be the foreleg every time. The yield will be so small that you'll be forced to cut tiny botis that will get charred in the tandoor.
Don't bother trimming your meat on the bone. Just hack away till you've got at least six pieces attached to a bone for the mutton burrah, splinters and all. And because you're using the foreleg, you'll be in the happy position of having a widely differing bone-to-meat ratio, so whereas one piece will be charred black, the next one, on the same skewer, will still be raw. Serves your guests right.
Of course, you'd be a complete maniac to trim the loose flaps of meat on the leg. Let them be where they are. That way, one boti will separate into two, so you can serve one less piece on a plate. Lucky you!
Don't go the Bukhara/ Peshawari route and marinate the same meat twice: where's the need? Once is more than enough.
If Bukhara is crazy enough to break down the fibres and soften the meat with salt, red chilli powder and lime juice, short cut the process and just follow their recipe for the second marination. Take lots of curd, salt, spices, vinegar and a 'fixer' like roasted gram-flour powder, and marinate away.
All the juices will drain out from the meat and flow into the marinating bowl. So much the better. You can always re-use it, so that tomorrow's guests get an even worse experience than today's.
Never marinate your meat for mere hours -- a day or two, better still a week or two is far better. It won't spoil, because of the preservative nature of the vinegar, salt and curd. And if the edges dry out in the deep freeze, too bad. Your guests can lump it.
Chef J P Singh of Bukhara (New Delhi) grills his meats lightly in a tandoor maintained especially for the purpose, skewering the pieces of meat closely together so that steam cooks them from the inside, but of course we're not going to do anything of the sort.
Far better to hang a couple of skewered birds just above the tandoor so that the heat of the tandoor semi cooks them. And if their natural juices run out, making them dry and flavourless, why, that's the very objective, isn't it?
When you get an order, shove in an ungreased skewer into the tandoor and sing the first verse of Kajrare. You will have a spectacularly blackened mess, without flavour or succulence. Congrats. You have just cooked your first terrible kebab.
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