Mustafa’s Turkish Shish Kebab

Recipe origin
Turkey Turkey
Prep time
15 minutes
Cooking time
30 minutes
Recipe by Mustafa Allawi
Mustafa Allawi

Shish kebabs have a history connected to war. It is said that Turkish soldiers used their swords to grill meat in open field fires during their invasion of Anatolia. This may not be the first use of cooking meat over an open fire, but it’s how the name stuck.

There’s historical and artistic evidence that the Greeks of the Byzantine era cooked shish kebabs. Homer’s Odyssey mentions them as well.

Meats used in shish kebabs are usually marinated prior to cooking. A basic marinade might consist of only olive oil, lemon juice, and onions, while a more complex one would include marjoram, crumbled bay leaves, cinnamon, allspice, and other spices. The color added by the vegetables, such as tomatoes, onion wedges, and green bell peppers, that are used to separate the pieces of meat helps make kebabs more visually appealing.

The recipe
Mustafa’s Turkish Shish Kebab
Mustafa’s Turkish Shish Kebab
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
1 3/4 pounds (800 g) boneless lamb leg, trimmed of most of the fat and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks
24 cherry tomatoes
Flatbread, for serving
3 cloves of garlic, minced to a fine paste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
Follow these steps
Step 1

Whisk yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, ketchup, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, cumin, black pepper, paprika, and cinnamon together in a bowl.

Place chicken thigh halves into the yogurt marinade and coat them thoroughly on all sides. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 to 8 hours.

Step 2

Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil the grate.

Using 2 skewers for each kebab, thread half of the chicken thighs onto each pair of skewers making a fairly thick “log” shape.

Step 3

Place kebabs on grill. Do not try to turn them until they begin to unstick from the grill, 3 or 4 minutes. Turn kebabs and grill the other side 3 or 4 minutes; turn. Continue cooking and turning until chicken is no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, about 6 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 165 degrees F (74 degrees C).