I love calf. Cute little animal. No oven is complete without it. Another thing I love is Turkish food. London has some kick-ass Turkish restaurants – if you live there you should definitely try their shish kebab. Just give us a shout and we can guide you to our personal favourite. I have long been dreaming of reproducing the same quality at home. The other day when I visited our butcher I ran into a beautiful cut of fresh lean calf. It was begging me not to leave it. I just couldn’t resist. I decided to buy it and use it in my first attempt to make shish kebab. Although the real shish is made of lean tender cut of lamb, at least in my opinion, I figured that this stunningly beautiful cut of calf shoulder, given enough time to age in marinade, was also an excellent candidate for a fine Turkish dinner. The team wasn’t around so it was going to be a solo project. Since it was the first time I tried to make kebab, I didn’t mind doing it alone. My plan was to use the learnings of this experience to make a proper lamb shish kebab with the team later, out in the fresh air, on charcoal.
But for now, I was focused on my solo experiment. Recently the weather has been pretty unpredictable around here so this was going to be a kitchen project. No charcoal this time.
First of all, the meat had to be marinated. This process is the key to a good kebab and you should never rush it. The meat needs to age and soften as well as take in some flavours, but without overpowering it. I used crushed garlic, ground cumin, salt, pepper and sweet paprika in olive oil and mixed all these into a thick liquid. I cut the meat into bite-sized cubes and covered them with the marinade. I put a lid on top and placed it into the fridge for a day and a half.
The next day I prepared the sides. I decided to make couscous with feta cheese and roasted red pepper. Before starting, I turned on the oven to pre-heat. Then I put 2 dl of water on the stove and brought it to a boil. When it was boiling I put some oil in it, turned off the heat and poured a cup of couscous into it. I covered it with a lid and left it for 5 minutes. In the meantime I cut small cubes of feta cheese and cut a red pepper into thin slices.
I removed the marinated meat from the fridge an put the cubes of calf on sticks. I halved 2 tomatoes and put those on a separate stick and a hot green pepper on another.
I cut one red onion into thin slices, put it in a bowl and mixed it with a tablespoon of olive oil and plenty of ground paprika. This tasty little salad if one of my favourite sides for kebab. If you can get your hands on coarsely ground smoked paprika, that works even better with it!
Next I sprinkled the red pepper slices with some oil and put them into the hot oven for a few minutes. When they softened up a bit I removed them and mixed into the couscous together with the feta cheese.
I put the sticks of meat, tomato and hot pepper into the oven on the highest heat. I baked the tomato and pepper until the skin started to tear, and the meat until it was becoming a little charred outside. The inside remained reasonably soft and juicy – of course, not as tender as the better, more expensive cuts of the calf would have been, but the result was still quite convincing.
I served the meat, couscous, tomato and hot pepper on an oval plate – take a look and decide for yourself if you would have a bite. Personally I couldn’t wait to finish the photos, throw away the camera and get to it!
Ingredients for 2-3 servings
- 0,4 kg (~1 lb) calf shoulder
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tbsp sweet paprika
- 2 garlic cloves
- salt, pepper to taste
- 1 cup of couscous
- 1 red pepper
- feta cheese
- 1-2 hot pepper
- 2 tomatoes
Enjoy it with some ambient black metal from Georgia (the country, not the US state). This one is called Adramalech, founded in 2009 in Tbilisi. I never though of Georgia as a country with a substantial metal scene but while I was recently researching Georgian metal bands (that’s right, that is because Georgian food is coming to our blog soon) I discovered that there is a surprising number of active bands out there. This came kind of like a surprise to me as I have been to Georgia twice and it came across as quite a conservative, religious country with little room for (black) metal bands, but apparently I was wrong and I won’t forget it during my next visit.