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Pair lamb with earthy spices for tasty summer kebabs

Updated: 
August 1, 2017 - 12:05am

These kebabs have tasty morsels of marinated lamb nestled between pieces of fruit and vegetables. I came up with this recipe a few years ago, and it has become a regular on my summer grilling menu.

Pieces of lamb are marinated in a paste-like thicker mixture hinted with earthy Indian-inspired spices.

The whole seed spices (coriander, cumin and mustard seed) are first toasted to intensify their aroma and flavor. Once toasted, the spices are ground in a clean coffee or spice grinder. If you don’t have a grinder, you can use a mortar and pestle. You can also use ground versions of the spices in place of the whole, but use about one-third less. But because the ground spice flavor is more concentrated, you will need to use about one-third less. You can still toast the ground (as it is in this glaze part of this recipe), but be sure to taste the marinade before using to adjust the seasoning as needed.

The glaze is a good fruity match for the meaty lamb. The spices used in the glaze are also toasted to intensify their aroma and flavor. Using apricot nectar and preserves is what adds the sweet, fruity flavor. Apricot preserves is one ingredient I always have on hand for using in a myriad of glazes and sauces. It’s an easy ingredient that adds and dimension of flavor to brush on grilled meats, seafood and poultry.

For this recipe you can use leg of lamb or lamb loin. When cutting the lamb into chunks, it’s a good idea to make sure the meat is really cold, which makes it easier to cut into even cubes. Place the lamb in the freezer for about 20 minutes if you need to so it gets cold.

Making kebabs involves threading meat and vegetables on a skewer. Here’s a few tips for kebab success:

— Soak flat or round wooden skewers in water at least 30 minutes or more before using. This prevents burning.

— Don’t overload the skewers with chunks of meat or vegetables; they will be too heavy and not cook evenly.

— Make sure pieces are cut in uniform pieces and not too large. Large pieces take longer to cook and often can be too heavy for a wooden skewers.

— Pair foods together that will cook in the same amount of time. If you’re unsure, thread meat and vegetables on separate skewers and cook them accordingly.

— Avoid skewering delicate foods like tomatoes, which cook too quickly and will fall off the skewer during grilling.

Indian-spiced Lamb Kebabs with Apricots and Red Peppers

This recipes serves 6, and takes about 40 minutes to make (plus 1 to 6 hours marinating time).

2 pounds boneless lamb leg or loin

2 teaspoons coriander seed

1 teaspoon cumin seed

1/2 teaspoon mustard seed

2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced

1 tablespoon grated ginger

2 to 3 tablespoons olive or canola oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup apricot preserves

1/2 cup apricot nectar

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

9 ripe (but firm) apricots

12 mini red, yellow or orange bell peppers

1/2 cup fresh cilantro chopped

Cut the lamb into 1 1/2-inch pieces and place in a sealable plastic bag or bowl. In a small skillet over medium heat, place coriander, cumin and mustard seed. Toast in the skillet a few minutes or until fragrant. Transfer to a clean coffee grinder and pulse to grind the spices. Place in a bowl and add the minced garlic and grated ginger. Use a fork to mash all ingredients together. (You can use a mortar and pestle to grind the spices if you like.) Add enough olive oil so the mixture is like a paste. Mix the paste with the olive oil and pour over the lamb. Press the sides of the bag with your hands to massage the paste into the lamb chunks so it coats all the pieces. Cover and refrigerate for least 1 hour or up to 6 hours.

While the lamb is marinating, in the same skillet you toasted the whole spices, add the ground cumin, ginger and coriander and cook, stirring, until fragrant over medium heat. Stir in the vegetable oil and cook 1 minute. Add the lemon juice, preserves and nectar and stir until smooth. Cook over low heat until the glaze is slightly thickened, season with salt and pepper and set aside. You should have about 1/2 cup.

Preheat the grill to medium. Cut the apricots in half and remove the pits and discard them. Cut the mini peppers in half lengthwise, leaving the stem on for presentation. Thread lamb pieces, apricot halves and peppers onto skewers, beginning and ending with the pepper halves. Season the kebabs with salt and pepper and grill the lamb for 10 to 12 minutes or until cooked as desired. Brush the skewers with the glaze as they cook.

Serve the skewers sprinkled with fresh cilantro and any extra glaze.

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