Its Saturday night and in a few hours the kebab shop will be full of wonky eyed revellers unaware of and disinterested in what on earth actually constitutes the hulking lump of elephant leg shaped meat that spins gently on the spit. Having discarded much of the salad and left the remnants of the pitta on the roof of a Vauxhall Corsa whilst staggering home they’ll fall into bed where the room might well start to spin too.
Kebabs have a bad reputation because we immediately think of the image described above (or maybe its just me). The best kebab I ever ate was in Turkey where, ironically, they allowed the sheep to wander about amongst the tables. I also enjoyed some quite magnificent Souvlaki in Greece many years ago whilst on holiday with my chums. The soft pittas were filled with gently spiced chargrilled meat and topped with a yogurt and mint dressing. They cost about a pound each and there were some nights I must have eaten a tenner’s worth because they were that good. Ever since I have tried to recreate them sometimes with great success.
Wandering the aisles of Waitrose in the late afternoon can be a lucrative business as there are often dramatic price reductions. I found a pack of lovely lamb cutlets but you could use any lamb chop and leg steaks too. As long as it doesn’t need long cooking you’ll be fine.
I ground a dessert spoon of cumin seeds in the mortar and pestle (use ground cumin if thats all you have but remember that whole spices are much better because they keep their pungency for longer) and add a teaspoon of salt and a dessert spoon of plain flour. I mix the seasoning together and then rub it onto the meat making sure there is a good coating all over.
I heat a little olive oil in a pan and when it is very hot I put the meat in and leave them for a few minutes to make sure they get a good crust on them. If you are tempted to keep fiddling around they will cook but you wont get those sublime crispy bits. Then turn the meat over and cook the other side until the lamb is how you like it.
Shred some lettuce and spoon some plain yoghurt into a dish to which you then add a handful of mint chopped very finely and a sprinkling of salt. When the meat is cooked squeeze some lemon juice over it and a scattering of salt. Squeeze lemon juice over the lettuce too and treat that to a bit of salt as well.
Warm some pittas in the toaster, put the whole lot in the middle of the table and tuck in.
Personally I like to cut the meat from the bone and stuff it into a pitta with some lettuce and yoghurt dressing but you do what you like. In the end the provenance of your supper is assured, it is vastly superior to anything you can secure on the high street and you’re probably not too pissed to enjoy it either.