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Persian Lamb Kebabs


A simple but very tasty preparation for lamb. This peasant-style dish goes well with couscous, steamed basmati rice or stuffed into flatbreads for sandwiches.

Recipe courtesy of Simon Thibault, Adapted from Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford’s cookbook Seductions of Rice


For the marinade

  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Greek or Balkan-style yogourt
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) coriander seed, dry-roasted* and ground
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) cumin seed, dry roasted* and ground
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) freshly ground white pepper
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) melted butter, ghee** or melted lamb fat
  • 2 lbs (1 kg) boneless lean lamb, cut into 1-inch (2 1/2-cm) cubes
  • Optional: ground sumac for garnish

* Dry roasting is a process that allows the flavours of spices to bloom and become richer. Heat a dry skillet on medium and place spices into the pan,  stirring them to prevent burning. Once fragrant, they are ready to be ground. NOTE: do not dry roast cumin and coriander seeds together, as they will cook at different times.

** Ghee is a fat that is often favoured in the Middle East. A clarified form of either vegetable or animal fats, it contains few impurities, preventing it from tasting burned or acrid when heated at high smoking points. You may find ghee at most Indian or Asian grocers.


  1. Grate onion using a box grater or microplane. Add salt and toss to blend. Place the grated onion in a fine-mesh sieve, allowing the juice of the onion to drip through. Let stand for about 30 minutes, reserving the onion juice.
  2. Mix together onion juice, coriander, cumin and yogourt. Mix in cubes of lamb and allow to marinate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.
  3. Thread the cubes onto skewers and grill under broiler or on barbecue, allowing about 4 inches (10 cm) of space between the heat source and the meat to prevent it from drying out. Turn the cubes after about 3 minutes for even heating. Baste with butter, ghee or lamb fat to keep moist, cooking for another 3 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle the optional ground sumac for a nice tart flavour. Serve with steamed basmati rice or salad. Serves four to six.

This recipe was featured in the article Luscious Lamb.

East Coast Living