Thursday 8 September 2011

Totally Turkish

Wraps are my new answer to a quick dinner.  I know that they are not exactly the cutting edge of cuisine.  A bit old hat.  All the supermarkets have churned out their own versions - Hoi Sin duck wrap, Vietnamese rice paper wrap, Mexican bean wrap - all in loads of packaging, sanitised, chilled, all flavours dumbed down to offend no-one and tasting of nothing.  But I vaguely remembered a time before the supermarket had discovered and killed this particular food trend and I knew they can be great.  So I started experimenting with Fahitas, Shawarmas, Koftes and most recently the good old Shish Kebab. Freshly made and cooked, they take minutes, are really healthy and everybody loves them.  Especially the kids, which means we can all eat together early and I do not have to cook two separate meals in the evening.

It is always fun to serve up a hands on meal, when every one can make up their own particular favourite combination.  Daniel, my son, always opts for maximum salad, lashings of hummus and as little meat as possible.  My daughter, Amelie is completely opposite, going straight for the meat and avoiding anything that resembles a vegetable.  Hugh, the other half, crams as much as humanly possible into one kebab and then drowns the whole thing in chilli sauce.  As for me, my main pleasure is as I said, - one meal, everyone happy.  If you have vegetarians in the family, you could always make some Falafal.

I discovered that The Turkish Food Center had a branch in Croydon which isn't far from me and I was really keen to give it a visit.  I am a bit embarrassed to admit that when I got out of the car in Croydon, I actually felt a little bit nervous.  I have lived in London all my life, but suddenly I felt in unfamiliar territory. No one appeared to speak English. But I reminded myself that this was exactly what my blog is supposed to be about.  Ethnic shops amongst ethnic communities. 

Once inside The Turkish Food Center, I lost myself amongst the aisles of fantastic exotic pulses, spices and nuts.  They have a butchery and a bakery with freshly baked Turkish Breads, biscuits and sweets.  There was a wonderful selection of vegetables, fruit and herbs.  I realised I completely forgotten any fears and that is exactly why it is so important to integrate ourselves. Fear comes from the unknown and that is what breeds prejudice.

On this one street in Croydon, the London Road, minutes away from where some of the worst rioting and looting took place are the most fantastic selection of Indian, Pakistani, West Indian, African, Sri Lankan, Middle Eastern and Caribbean shops, trading, working and living side by side in total harmony.

Lamb Shish Kebab
Obviously Kebabs are best on the barbecue but if you don't have one they are still really good baked in an oven, as hot as it will go for about 10 minutes.

800g leg of lamb
2 peppers, red, yellow, green or orange, cut into chunks
2 red onions, cut into chunks
For the marinade
100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli such as cayenne
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp Zahtar

Chop the lamb into chunky cubes, removing any excess fat.

For the marinade: in a large bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl with some salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the meat cubes and toss to coat thoroughly in the mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 36 hours.

When ready to cook, preheat a char-grill or barbecue to hot.

Remove the meat from the marinade and thread the cubes onto long or round metal skewers, alternating with chunks of onion, cherry tomatoes and pepper.

Cook the kebabs on the hot char-grill or barbecue for 4-6 minutes on each side. But you can just fry them in a fryingpan.

Serve the kebabs with flatbread and a range of mezze - such as hummus, moutabal, Tabbouleh or Fattoush Salad as accompaniments.

Turkish Kofte Kebabs with Minted Yoghurt

500g minced lamb
1 onion, finely grated
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (less if for kids)
2 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Ground Coriander
Juice of one lemon
1 small bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped
Oil for brushing
Freshly ground black pepper
For the minted yoghurt
200g/7oz Greek natural yoghurt
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint

Preheat a charcoal barbecue 40 minutes ahead of cooking or a gas barbecue 10 minutes ahead of cooking. If using a cast-iron griddle pan, heat it over a high heat, then lower the heat slightly before cooking.  Cover eight bamboo skewers with cold water and leave them to soak.

Put the minced lamb into a bowl with all of the ingrediants, some salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Mix together with your hands until bound together.

Divide the mixture into eight and mould it into long sausage shapes around the drained bamboo skewers. 

 For the minted yoghurt, mix the yoghurt with the mint, half a teaspoon of salt and some pepper and set aside.

Brush the kofte generously with oil and lightly oil the bars of the barbecue or griddle. Cook for five minutes, turning occasionally, until browned all over and cooked through.

Domates Salatasi

4 medium really red tomatoes, firm and cut in chunks
2 cucumbers, preferably the small variety, cut in half, de-seeded and chopped 
1 small red onion, very finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 handfull fresh dill, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix everything together.  Spoon over your kebab.

Turkish Food Centers 14 Branches all over London - see directory


  1. I love the chilies. I must find this Turkish store to get some!

  2. I love this sort of food! Will try out your koftes soonlooks delicious! I'm actually from Croydon! I get that feeling sometimes when I venture into North London, it's unknown territory!


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