Turkish people love their kebabs, almost as much as Persians, but the variety of kebabs available in Turkish cuisine is far more than any other country. Grilled, baked, chicken, lamb, seafood, mince, the list goes on and the variety of vegetables and spices incorporated into their kebabs are a thing of beauty. This oven baked kebab is perfect for those times when you want all the taste sensation of a good kebab but don’t want to bother firing up the grill. It can be made with minced lamb or beef but my preference is for good quality lamb mince that’s not too lean – the sort of fat to lean ratio you would use for a burger. The taste of the juicy lamb kebabs combined with tomatoes and eggplant is fabulous. Make sure you serve this with plenty of rice to soak up all the cooking juices, as well as some garlic spiked yogurt.
Ingredients – Serves 4 generously
For the Kebabs:
700g minced lamb (or beef), not too lean – see above
1 medium white onion, grated and excess juice extracted through a sieve
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon Turkish chilli flakes – optional. Turkish chilli flakes are very mild, if you can’t access some, leave it out.
To Garnish – Long continental green capsicum/pepper, sliced (optional)
For the Tomato Sauce:
Olive oil or vegetable oil
1 large white onion finely diced
3 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons Turkish mild red pepper paste, you can substitute with tomato paste
1 x 400ml can of crushed tomatoes or diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt & black pepper
For the Eggplants:
2-3 eggplants – long and narrow ones are best that are roughly the same width all the way
Light olive oil or Vegetable oil
Place all the ingredients for the kebabs in a bowl and knead well until the mixture becomes tacky and sticky. Alternatively you can place the ingredients into a food processor and process for a few minutes to achieve the same result. Cover the mixture and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Using wet hands shape the meat into small round patties that are roughly the same width as your eggplant (maybe slightly larger as they’ll shrink a little) and about 1.5cm thick. Heat a non stick fry pan over medium heat and cook the patties for a couple of minutes on each side until lightly seared. They won’t be cooked all the way through. Reserve any pan juices. Note: I didn’t pan sear my kebabs first and just layered them raw with the eggplant to cook in the oven. I think frying them first will lead to a much tastier end dish.
To make the tomato sauce. Heat a generous splash of oil into a small saucepan and add the onion along with a pinch of salt and cook over a gentle heat for about 15 minutes or until onion is completely soft. Add the garlic and turmeric and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the red pepper paste or tomato paste and cook it off for a minute or two. Add the crushed tomatoes and about 150ml of water and any reserved pan juices from cooking the kebabs and bring to a simmer. Add the sugar and season with some salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 30 minutes. Taste again and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Prepare the eggplant by slicing them into 1.5 cm rounds. Place them into a colander and sprinkle generously with salt and leave them to drain for 30 minutes. Place a large non stick fry pan over medium-high heat and add enough oil to come 1cm up the side of the pan. When the oil is up to temperature dry the eggplant slices with kitchen towels and add enough pieces to cover the pan in one layer. Cook until one side is lightly golden then turn and cook the other side. Repeat until all the eggplant is cooked, adding more oil as necessary. You will want to drain the eggplant on paper towels once cooked.
Once all the elements are prepared heat the oven to 180C. Take an oven proof round baking dish that is roughly 30cm and cover the base with a generous amount of the tomato sauce. Then layer the eggplants and meat patties in concentric circles to fill the pan. Spoon a bit more of the tomato sauce over the top and top with some slices of green capsicum/pepper if using. Cover tightly with baking paper lined foil and bake for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and continue cooking for a further 10 minutes uncovered. Remove from he oven and leave to rest for a few minutes before serving with rice or flat bread.