Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kabob Bil Karaz - Cherry Kabobs - from Aleppo

When living in Syria, my favorite dish was Kabob Bil Karaz or Cherry Kabobs, which are a specialty dish from the city of Aleppo. Here is the closest recipe that I have been able to find since returning from Syria. When I made it, I used fresh sour cherries - the kind used in cooking. However, these can be difficult to find in stores so you could try substituting dried cherries, canned sour cherries or sweet cherries.

Kabob Bil Karaz Recipe
(Serves 4)

1 pound ground lamb
1 pound sour cherries
1½ teaspoons of Bharat (See below for recipe)
1/4 cup of pine nuts, toasted
3 tablespoons sugar
Juice from half a lemon
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
2 rounds of flat Arabic bread
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper

Wash the cherries and soak them overnight with enough water to cover. The following day, pit the cherries and put them in a large pot with their liquid. Add the lemon juice, sugar and pomegranate molasses. Taste the sauce, adding sugar or lemon juice as required to get the right balance of sweet and sour. Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened a little.

Mix the meat with the spices, season with salt and pepper then roll into marble-sized balls. In a shallow pan, saute in butter over medium heat until evenly browned.

Add the meatballs to the cherry mixture and cook over low heat for 15 minutes until they take on the cherry color.

To assemble, cover serving dish with Arabic bread with light side up. Spoon the kabob onto the center of the bread and cover with the thickened sauce. Add a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and decorate with parsley leaves.

Traditionally, the dish would be eaten with the hands using the bread on the plate to soak up the sauce and pick up the meat. Serve with a few Syrian dips and a salad. For ideas, see Syrian Cooking.

Bharat (Mixed Spices)
This spice may also be purchased in some Middle Eastern specialty shops.

1 T freshly ground black peppercorns
1/2 T ground coriander
1/2 T ground cassia bark
1/2 T ground cloves
1 T ground cumin
1/4 t. ground cardamom
1/2 T ground nutmeg
1 T ground paprika

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container