Donald’s Not-Adana Kebabs

Adana Kebabs

A few weeks back I was all geared up to tell you how I’ve been writing this blog for ten years. Ten years! I would tell the story of how it all started, reminiscing about the first post I wrote and what I’d cooked. There was even a special ‘anniversary’ recipe – further evidence that I’m a sentimental douche.

Then I realised that actually, I’ve only been going for nine years. Pathetic. I got it wrong and so you’ll have to wait to hear how I got into trouble with the council because I started a food blog. And no you can’t look up the post, clever clogs, because when I changed the design of this site the first time around, a load of stuff got lost, including that. I’m not even lying because I’m embarrassed and I don’t want you to read it, (if you want to find some terrible cringe-y old content on here then there’s plenty more to choose from).

You could make yours the same size.

You could make yours the same size.

So the new, celebratory recipe I’d been working on was a kebab, which possibly reveals that my first ever recipe on here was, too, of that nature. I feel like I started out strong and then maintained a stream of posts dominated by grilled meat, swearing, butter, hot sauce, BBQ and general mischief.

Brushing the Adana

Brushing the Adana

Anyway, we’re not getting into all that until next year. What I’m doing now is giving you a bonus Adana kebab recipe because YOU’RE WORTH IT. This is Donald’s recipe for kebabs, which is annoying because it’s better than the one I made and then published in my book. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? The recipe in my book is still great, FYI, it’s just that you know, recipes evolve and all that. This Adana is so much more an Adana for ‘right now’. It understands me in a way that no other Adana does. It’s not the old Adana’s fault, it’s mine etc. etc.

You want all the kebab juices to soak into your bread.

You want all the kebab juices to soak into your bread.

The reason they’re so good is partly down to the spice mix, partly down to the cooking method. They’re not even really proper Adana, that’s just what we call them because they’re spicy and made with lamb. Don’t even start with me on the authenticity thing because you know I always outrun the Food Police.

The smacked cucumbers

The smacked cucumbers

The other great thing here is the side salad, which takes the method of Sichuan smacked cucumbers but uses flavours more appropriate for Turkish kebabs. So it’s got loads of garlic as usual but also sumac and Turkish chilli and it might even be my new favourite summer salad. So there.

I recommend grilling some onions and chilies to serve on the side.

I recommend grilling some onions and chillies to serve on the side.

You’ll cook these kebabs on the BBQ, obviously, and eat them with flatbreads and yoghurt while you practice counting to ten. It’s surprisingly easy to get rusty.

Donald’s Not-Adana Kebabs Recipe


For the spice mix

2-inch cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon caraway seeds
4 dried red chillies
6 cardamom pods
20 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon sea salt

Bash the cinnamon stick a bit then grind the whole lot in a spice grinder.

For the basting sauce

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons sumac
2 teaspoons Urfa (Turkish) chilli flakes
2 teaspoons sea salt
A grind of black pepper

Mix it all together.

For the kebabs

750g minced lamb
2 red chillies, de-seeded
1/2 onion, finely chopped
Generous handful parsley leaves, chopped
1.5 tablespoons spice mix (above)

Mix everything together and knead it really well with your hands – about 5 minutes. This is important for the texture of the kebabs so don’t skip it. Divide into six portions (or whatever your skewers will allow) and shape into logs. Thread skewers into the logs. It’s best to use flat, wide skewers here or you risk the kebabs falling off. If yours are quite round, use two per kebab.

Leave to rest in the fridge for an hour or so. Prepare a BBQ with the coals to one side – it’s best to cook them to one side because otherwise the fat will drip and make the BBQ flare up, burning your kebabs.

Cook the kebabs on the cooler side of the BBQ, basting frequently with the sauce and turning until cooked through – around 10-15 minutes. Towards the end of cooking time, lay the flatbreads on top of the kebabs to get some smoke flavour into them and heat them through. Serve the kebabs on top of the breads so the juices run into them.

To serve

Cucumber salad (below)
A skewer each of onion slices and chillies (brush with oil and grill on the BBQ while the kebabs are cooking)

Turkish Smacked Cucumbers

2 of those small cucumbers you get in Middle Eastern grocers or one large English cucumber
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon Urfa chilli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar (we used ‘grape vinegar’ from the Turkish supermarket but use red wine vinegar (same thing?!), cider vinegar, whatever)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt

Halve the cucumbers then place them seed side down on a chopping board. Smack them with the side of a cleaver or something else until they’re smashed a bit. Chop into 2cm lengths and mix with all the other ingredients.

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  • Avatar
    Reply Alex August 11, 2016 at 8:24 am

    I read this TWICE as McDonald’s !

    (sorry !)

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves August 11, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Haha. Craving a Big Mac are we, Alex? 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply Kathryn August 11, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    That’s looks so delicious, I wish I had an outside space for a bbq 🙁 did you get those flatbreads in the Peckham area?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves August 11, 2016 at 12:18 pm

      You can do them under the grill! Or in a pan. The breads are actually some chapattis I bought in Sainsbury’s but don’t bother with them – go to Khan’s and get those lovely fluffy ones they do. They’d be perfect! I actually wanted to use those ones myself.

      • Avatar
        Reply Kathryn August 11, 2016 at 9:29 pm

        ah yes, I haven’t gotten those Khan’s breads in awhile. Unfortunately the grill doesn’t work very well in our rented flat (ugh) but I’m going to try this recipe when I visit my mum next week who has a bbq, can’t wait 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply Liz Thomas August 11, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    I’ve got those exact shish sticks! Bought them in Istanbul years ago. Now I’ve just to make this so that I can use them. thanks to you I shall also have to go out and buy a BBQ.. I’ve got a grill in my oven but the shish won’t fit into there!

    Thanks, sounds great but I’m going to have to cut down somewhat on the chillie!


    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves August 11, 2016 at 12:37 pm

      Ha ha yeah, do cut down if you don’t like them spicy. To be honest, they weren’t even that hot but then chillies obviously vary a lot in heat level. Also 750g is quite a lot of meat. Anyway it’s easily adaptable 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply Sangeeta York August 15, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Made this last night- it was soooooo good! Another tasty recipe 🙂 didn’t have dried red chillis so used chipotles for a smokey flavour and corriander instead of parsley! Still worked!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves August 15, 2016 at 12:43 pm

      Lovely! Bet those smoky chillies were gorgeous in there. Really pleased you enjoyed the recipe 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply Mabbs August 15, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    It’s interesting that you don’t add salt to the meat mix, just the basting sauce. I love the sound of this; i am making it ASAP!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves August 16, 2016 at 5:56 am

      There is salt in the meat mix – it’s in with the spices 🙂

      • Avatar
        Reply Mabbs August 21, 2016 at 6:44 pm

        OHHH DERRRR! Must. Read. More. Carefully. Thanks!

  • Avatar
    Reply Kathryn September 11, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Made this when I had access to a bbq and it was delicious, mixed 50% pork and 50% lamb as I’m not a huge fan of lamb. Thanks for the recipe !

  • Avatar
    Reply Rabh October 17, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Looks great! One question I had – what flatbreads do you use, and where do you get them from? I’m struggling to find a good source, and the supermarket stuff is pretty poor.

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