Saturday, November 10, 2018


Spiced and skewered chunks of lamb grill just until browned.

Back in balmier days, I had the butcher bone and open out a whole leg of lamb for cooking on the grill. I didn’t use the whole piece of meat, so I stored some of it in the freezer. This week, on the occasion of my birthday, I defrosted it for making lamb kebabs.

My favorite kebab recipe is Persian chelo kebab. Chelo is steamed rice and kebab is marinated chunks of lamb, skewered and cooked on a grill. The marinade of grated onion both tenderizes and flavors the meat. Saffron and sumac plus salt and pepper are the only seasonings used.

This time I planned to experiment with a Spanish-style marinade, using the spice blend for pinchitos morunos. Pinchitos are mini-kebabs spiced in the “Moorish” manner that are favorite tapa bar fare. In Spain they are usually made with small pieces of pork. Just across the Straits of Gibraltar, in Morocco, similar mini-kebabs are made with beef or lamb. The Spanish spice blend is a simplification of the Moroccan ras el-hanout. It can be purchased con pique and sin pique--with or without picante spice of hot pimentón or cayenne.

Ten spices make the blend.
I have both ras el-hanout that I brought back from Morocco and Spanish especia para pinchitos. Both contain potenciador de sabor—MSG, monosodium glutamate, a flavor-enhancing additive. So I mixed my own spice blend.

For kebabs, the meat is cut in good-sized cubes, so that in grilling, it stays medium-rare. Whereas, pork pinchitos are cut very small to cook thoroughly in the time it takes to brown the meat. I used a flat grill pan (plancha), making it easier to turn the kebabs than a ridged pan. The kebabs would also be good on a charcoal or wood fire.

I served the kebabs on top of cous cous with zeilouk, a Moroccan “salad” as accompanying sauce or side dish.

Skewered and grilled lamb is served atop cous cous, with a garnish of pomengranate seeds. Moroccan zeilouk salad on the side serves as a spicy sauce.

Push the meat off the skewers. Mix with cous cous and a spoonful of the zeilouk salad-sauce.

Lamb is browned on the outside, pink on the inside.

Pinchito Spice Blend
Especia para Pinchitos

Use freshly purchased spices or grind them yourself. Double or triple the recipe and store the spice, tightly covered and protected from direct light. The spice blend is good on roast chicken or lamb chops as well as the kebabs.

1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon hot pimentón or ¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon pimentón (paprika), not smoked
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
¼ teaspoon powdered ginger
½ teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
Grating of nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all of the spices in a bowl. Store them, tightly covered, in a glass jar away from direct light. 

Lamb Kebabs
Brochetas de Cordero

Serves 4.

1 ½ pounds boneless lamb from leg or shoulder
1 ½ teaspoons pinchito spice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pieces of red bell pepper
Slices of onion

Trim off excess fat.

Remove fat covering from meat. Cut meat into 1 ½-inch pieces. Place in a non-reactive bowl. Add the spice blend, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and oil. Mix well to coat all of the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.

Spices, garlic, lemon juice and parsley for marinade.
Thread the cubes of lamb on skewers (metal ones are best)  with a few pieces of red pepper and onion between the pieces of meat.  

Heat a flat grill pan and brush it with oil. Grill the kebabs until browned on all sides and cooked medium-rare, about 2 minutes per side. 

Moroccan eggplant salad, zeilouk. Recipe is here.

More recipes for kebabs:


  1. Happy Birthday! This spice blend looks terrific. I will use it on my Thanksgiving turkey. And try that eggplant salad. What a great menu you created.

    1. Heather: Thank you for the birthday wishes. Spices on turkey!! Sounds thrilling. Hope it turns out well. Have a nice TG.