I learned to make these kebabs from a Moroccan ex of mine. I think it was the first meal she prepared for me. She admitted that her intention was to serve me a taste of her home that would not scare my 'whiteness'. She saved that for later when she taught me that this recipe will work for virtually any cut of red meat. I typically used a beef chuck roast as they are usually tender with a good distribution of fat as well as inexpensive compared to "better" cuts. In Morocco I have had them made with mutton, the best being from the leg and shoulder but typically liver. My ex also used this recipe for beef liver, heart, tongue, and kidney (my personal favorite, at least for internals). Venison would be another option for any hunters, a deer heart is so far the only venison that I have had prepared with this recipe but it was delicious.
Actual prep time is only about 30 minutes, depending on how fast you can chop. It is best to prepare it at least a few hours ahead of time, but a day or more will not hurt. I have cooked pieces that were prepared three days earlier and the only truly noticeable difference is that they were so tender that they nearly melted in my mouth. It also scales very well. My ex and I prepared it for my family serving about a dozen people. I have been part of a party of 20 at the souk where they were prepared for us. I have also had them served at a party prior to a wedding where there were around 50 very well fed guests. The only real limit is how many skewers you have and how much cooking space you have.
Step 1: The Tedious Part; Gather the Ingredients
Most of the ingredients you likely already have, the exception is fresh cilantro or parsley. You will also need a white or yellow onion, oil, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper, and of course meat. Most things I was taught to cook I was never taught amounts. The recipe was just a list of ingredients and everything was done to taste, this was no different. Unfortunately not everyone has a Moroccan partner or in-laws to teach them. But thanks to the joys of the internet it is easy to find people that paid close enough attention to know if it was one or two tablespoons they dumped in, that is where these amounts come from:
- 2 lb lamb or beef
- 1 medium or large onion, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
I do not use parsley, unless I can not find cilantro; instead I just use one bunch of cilantro. If you use parsley, by choice or necessity, make sure that it is flat leaf parsley not the garnish from a cheap diner. When I make these my paprika and cumin ration is closer to 1:1, but I love cumin. Another trick I was taught was to use a half measure of olive oil in combination with the vegetable oil. So for the amounts above I would use 1/4 to 1/2 a tablespoon of olive oil along with the vegetable oil for a total of 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil.
Step 2: The Messy Part; Mixing
Nothing fancy here, just messy. Once you are done cutting and chopping dump all of the ingredients into a bowl, sink your hands in, and start mixing. If you have children that like to get messy this would be a good job for them. If you don't have children and like to stay clean borrow someone else's children.Everything washes off, eventually, but the parika can stain fingernails and the salt can be irritating when it gets under them. You can wear gloves just make sure there is no powder on them . A large resealable bag could also work for a small batch. I would not recommend a spoon or other utensil as the hand mixing helps massage the flavors into the meat.
Step 3: The Hard Part; Waiting
The first time you make these, or if you are the one non-vegan in the world that doesn't end up liking them, this is probably the easiest step. For me this is one of my favorite Moroccan dishes and it is my favorite to make so I can hardly stand waiting. To help with it I usually put them together after breakfast in preparation for dinner or after dinner for the next day. The only thing to do is cover your bowl, toss it in the fridge, and wait. The longer the meat marinates the more tender and flavorful the kebabs will be. At the souks in Morocco the meat might marinate for about 30 minutes. At home where the meat is not as fresh 4 to 8 hours is a good start.
Step 4: The Second Mess and the Start of the Fun
Grab the skewers and start stabbing. Don't overload the skewers, you want the pieces to just be touching. Try to find pieces about the same size for more even cooking. If a piece is not a perfect cube run the skewer through its length, but do not smash it down. Also, try and make an even distribution of fat by putting fatty pieces next to the lean ones; this will prevent some kebabs from being dry while others are greasy.
Step 5: Fire. Fire! HeHeHe
The kebabs can be cooked however you wish, you just need heat. At the souks it is a steel trough about 6 to 8 inches wide, that the skewers span, and 5 to 10 feet long. Natural lump charcoal is started at one end and more is added moving towards the other end and the cooks move from one end to the other. As the embers die in one section the coals are ready in the next. Since the largest number of people I have prepared this for is about a dozen, versus the hundred plus that might go through a tent at the souks, I like the American version of a charcoal grill. You can go Hank Hill and break out the "propane and propane accessories, so you can taste the meat and not the heat." That is how this batch was cooked because when I went to load charcoal into the grill I found the bottom rotted out since the last time. I have also fried the meat in a pan to put over some rice when I was stuck in an apartment with no access to a grill.
Step 6: Final Thoughts
The kebabs are commonly served with an extra bowl filled with a mix of cumin and salt. The only time I use this is at the souk when the meat has not had a chance to marinate for long. It is also helpful when you use something like liver or kidney but I prefer to let that marinate for at least 24 hours.
The 'normal' way to eat the kebabs is to use a small piece of bread and your fingers, but if you are in a hurry taking a small loaf of bread to make a sandwich is also done. For the sandwich I made I used regular yellow mustard and Sriracha. In Morocco there would be some harissa spread onto the baguette. If you want to try to make some here is an instructable that another person made, https://www.instructables.com/id/Harissa-Maghrebi-f...
You can drink what ever you want with your kebabs. Soft drinks are common if they are served as part of an informal lunch, to children, or on a really hot day. But the most common drink, especially as part of a special dinner, is mint tea. This page will tell you more than you wanted to know about tea, http://moroccanfood.about.com/od/tipsandtechniques... The author like myself learned about Morrocan food from her in-laws. The technique she describes is nearly identical to how I was taught and still prepare tea from time to time.
Lastly, like I said before, I was taught this recipe 'to taste'. The amounts listed previously are someone else's but not too far off from mine. But they should only be used as a starting point. You may be like me and love cumin and want to get closer to a 1:1 ratio with the paprika. You may have a spicy paprika or are preparing it for someone that thinks Taco Bell's mild sauce is insanely hot so by all means dial back the pepper. You may have a tough cut of meat that you don't want to wait on so up the salt or add a little lemon juice to help it soften up. Play around with it and before long you will just be popping the lids off the jar and dumping things in like I do.