Monday, July 4, 2016

Indian Chicken Kebabs are a Real Hit

As a caveat, before I even begin, I just want to say that I tend to go to extremes in my quest for making things from scratch. Because of this, though our dinner last evening was simple, in the sense of a kebab in the shape of a hot dog, a chutney to go along with these, a bread to hold it, and a side dish, making these 4 things took me all the day long. 
Chicken Seekh Kebabs
Chicken Seekh Kebabs

That said, if I hadn't just suddenly gotten the yen to make an Indian meal that morning, but instead had planned ahead, things could have been far easier. The chutney could have been made a week ahead of time. The Dhal could have been made a day or two in advance and not suffered for it. Even the kebab mixture itself could have been made a day before. So making all this in the same day was probably not the very best thing, but I want it understood that bringing all this together can be accomplished in steps, over a period of days, making it a much easier proposition. 
Chicken Seekh Kebab served on Paratha with lettuce
Chicken Seekh Kebab served on Paratha

I will say that as we ate dinner last evening, my husband and I uttered a long series of "mmmmm, this is so good!" as we ate, so it was really all worth it. These kebabs are called Chicken Seekh Kebabs, and in some places I have seen it spelled Chicken Sheek Kebabs. Whatever the spelling, there are a lot of ingredients and the chicken is well spiced. Not your average hot dog by any stretch. I felt that these would be nice wrapped in some kind of Indian bread. I know Parathas are slightly thicker than Rotis, but less hefty than Naan, so I went for making the Parathas. Parathas are made from "atta" flour, which roughly translates to part all purpose flour and part sifted whole wheat flour. Since I have my own grain mill, I ground wheat berries, passed this through a very fine sieve (amazing how much bran is left behind this way, leaving a lighter version of whole wheat) and used that flour in equal parts with all-purpose flour to make the Parathas. A Paratha can be made stuffed with things like potatoes or herbs, or made plain. Since my Kebabs were highly spiced, I wanted a plain bread. 



Makes 6 to 8

1 cup all-purpose white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour passed through a sieve
1 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons melted ghee or vegetable oil
3/4 cup water, approximately

more oil or ghee for cooking the Parathas

Place both flours and salt in a bowl. Add in the water to make a soft dough. Turn out on a surface and knead the mass for 2 minutes. This kneading is to build gluten so the Parathas hold together later. Let the dough rest, covered for at least 30 minutes. If longer, refrigerate until ready to use.

When ready to make the Parathas, turn dough out onto a surface and cut into 6 or 8 equal portions. Have the ghee or oil ready. Heat a skillet to medium or slightly lower. 
Making Parathas
Fold, brush with ghee                   |         fold again; press to seal        |                    roll again                   |               cook

Roll out one portion of the dough to a relatively round shape about 6 to 8-inches in diameter. If you are making 8 Parathas, the amount of dough will be smaller, so the size will be smaller. Brush the ghee or oil over the surface. Fold the circle in half. Brush with more ghee or oil. Fold again to a quarter. Now press firmly all around the edges to make the folded dough adhere, then once more roll out to a relative circle. Brush oil in the hot pan. Set the Paratha in the pan to cook until the bottom is browned. Brush oil over the top and flip the Paratha, to brown the other side. Remove to paper toweling. Repeat these steps for all the remaining pieces of dough. Serve warm.

To make the chicken mixture, remember this can be made earlier in the day or even the day before. The flavors will meld well over this time. If you have a meat grinding attachment and want to grind your own chicken, that's great. I used my food processor and pulsed until the chicken was fine. Pre-ground chicken may also be used. If desired, these can be made with hamburger meat or even ground lamb.

As with making a meatloaf, I absolutely hate raw onions, so I always fry the onion until golden before adding to the ground meat. I did the same with these kebabs, using a good sized onion, finely minced and sauteed slowly in ghee until golden before adding to the ground meat. If you are new to Indian spices, you may not have heard of white poppy seeds, but these are used in many Indian dishes. The small amount used is easily left out, if they are not on hand. This will not truly affect flavor.

Chaat Masala is another spice mixture, similar in concept to Garam Masala, but with slightly different flavors. This mix is often used to sprinkle on foods just before eating. It is in the meat mixture in this recipe, but can be left out and used when serving if preferred. On the other hand, Chaat Masala ingredients (such as asafoetida, dried mango powder, tartaric acid) might be a bit more difficult to get hold of, so if this is not available, simply leave it out.

The cooking method for these kebabs can be a Tandoor oven, or your own oven, set at very hot (Tandoor ovens use flame and get exceedingly hot), or they can be fried; either deep or shallow-fried. I chose to shallow fry them and they took about 5 minutes per batch in a very wide skillet. 

Chicken Seekh Kebabs

Chicken Seekh Kebabs
Chicken Seekh Kebabs
Makes about 12 kebabs or 6 portions

14 cashew nuts
10 raw almonds
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 pound ground chicken meat (thigh, breast or a mix)
1 large onion, minced and sauteed golden
1 - 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
4 -6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon white poppy seeds, optional
1/2 teaspoon cayenne, optional
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon coriander seed, ground

1 tablespoon Garam Masala
ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 cup bread crumbs
1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Chaat Masala, optional
Oil for frying
Bamboo skewers about 9-inches long

Grind the cashews, almonds and sesame seeds in a food processor, until fine. 

Place ground chicken in a large bowl. Add in the remaining ingredients through the Chaat Masala, if using, along with the finely ground nut mixture. Mix well with hands, then cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to a day.

Soak the bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. Divide the chicken mixture into 12 equal portions. Form each portion around one of the soaked skewers, forming a long, hot-dog shape. If frying these, it is important to keep the diameter consistent along the length of the kebab for even cooking. 

Heat a wide, shallow skillet and add in a little oil. Fry the kebabs, about 4 at a time (or whatever fits easily in your skillet), turning often to brown evenly for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove the skewers and serve on a bed of lettuce and with bread of choice alongside. Even a hamburger bun will do. Chutney of your choosing would be wonderful on top.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.