When Humaira and I throw a dinner party, we opt for dishes we can make ahead of time. The point of having friends over, after all, is to enjoy their company, not be squirreled away in the kitchen fussing over canapés.
These mini lamb kebabs are just perfect for entertaining. They’re prepped and marinated a day ahead, and then grilled before guests even cross the doorstep, freeing you up to enjoy the party without fretting that something’s burning in the kitchen.
Truth be told, these mini kebabs aren’t properly Afghan. Traditionally the lamb would be cut into larger chunks, speared onto long, heavy metal skewers and served in a heap on a large platter for the main course. Teeny little finger food isn’t exactly the Afghan way. However, the meat, the marinade and the cooking are all very true to the cuisine.
The chutney that accompanies kebabs in Afghanistan has no relation to the sweet and savory, fruit-studded preserves with which most of us are familiar. The Afghan version is a thin, herbaceous, acidic sauce.I tinkered with the traditional recipe by adding fresh mint to the mix. It makes a perfect tangy counterpart to the rich lamb.
Serve the skewers on their own or with little wedges of pita or nan bread for a mini kebab sandwiches.
Mini Afghan Lamb Kebabs with Cilantro Mint Chutney
Serves 10 to 12 as an appetizer or 4 to 6 as a main course
4 large cloves garlic, minced
¾ cup plain yogurt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 ½ tsp. ground turmeric
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 lbs. boneless lamb, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Small wooden or metal skewers*
Ground sumac (optional)
Cilantro Mint Chutney (recipe below)
In a medium bowl mix together the garlic, yogurt, spices, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add the lamb and mix well. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
An hour before you are ready to cook, pull the lamb from the refrigerator. If you are using wooden skewers immerse them in water for 20 minutes.
Spear 3 to 4 pieces of lamb on each skewer and set aside until you are ready to cook. Grill the kebabs over a medium-high flame until cooked through but still pink in the center. If you don’t have a grill, cook the kebabs under a broiler in your oven.
Coat the bottom of your serving platter with a few tablespoons of chutney. Set the kebabs on top of the chutney with a little crock of the remaining chutney in the center. Lightly sprinkle sumac over the top if you like.
*If you can’t find small wooden skewers, cut the larger ones in half using a sharp chef’s knife.
Cilantro Mint Chutney
½ cup roughly chopped green onions, white and green parts
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
½ cup roughly chopped fresh mint
½ cup white vinegar
½ tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper
Whirl all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.
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