Recently I was told that the aubergine or eggplant, an essential ingredient in this dish, belongs to the nightshade family. So I thought I would google it to find out more.
The result was very interesting. Apparently not only aubergines but also tomatoes, potatoes and bell peppers – I eat all of these regularly – all belong to the nightshade family and indeed they produce a range of alkaloid chemicals which may be toxic in differing degrees. (By the way, deadly nightshade is a separate member of this nightshade family).
It seems that many health practitioners go as far as recommending avoiding eating these especially if you suffer from chronic pain eg arthritis, or headaches.The chemicals can also contribute to allergic reactions.
So now we know. I think it is quite fascinating but will certainly not let this information affect my eating habits in any way – well, not now, at any rate.
I love islim kebab: I love its look, the way it’s assembled like a little package in its aubergine wrapping, and the colourful appeal of the red tomato and green pepper skewered jauntily on top with a toothpick. Not only that, its ingredients are staples of the local summer markets so it’s an extremely economical dish to make.
There are two aspects to its preparation: one the köfte or meatballs and two the aubergine, and neither is taxing. Then of course comes the assembling: the fun part!
I checked several recipes to compare and found that the kofte mixture contains nothing radical: the usual onion and garlic, red pepper flakes and cumin, some parsley if desired, an egg and bread crumbs. Voila!
And if you are used to working with aubergines, you will find a similar story. Nothing new here.
Peel in stripes, cut in slices approximately 1 cm wide, soak in salty water, pat dry and either fry lightly on both sides or bake in the oven to soften up to make them suitable for wrapping round the köfte.
- Soak the aubergine slices in salted water for 15 minutes. Remove and pat dry with kitchen paper. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and arrange the slices side by side. Brush each one with olive oil and bake in a 180C/350F oven for 15-20 minutes OR fry the slices in cooking oil in a frying pan. Drain on kitchen paper. Be careful not to overcook.
- Put the minced beef in a bowl and add first the grated onion and crushed garlic. Mix well with your hands. Then add the egg, bread crumbs, spices and seasonings including chopped parsley if using. All the ingredients should be well combined. Form into rounded kofte shapes. NB don’t make them too fat. One video showed it being made into quite small kofte rounds but then two were used in each aubergine package. This way it was ensured that they were cooked all the way through. My kofte were rather plump so making the 4 ends of the aubergine meet was something like pulling on a girdle!
- Lay 2 slices of aubergine one on top of the other to form a cross and place a meatball in the middle. Bring first one end of the aubergine up to the top and then in turn the other three ends to form a little package. They should overlap. Secure with a toothpick.
- Slice the tomato and green pepper (no need to deseed) and place first a slice of tomato on top of the toothpick and then a piece of green pepper.
- Continue with the remaining ingredients in a similar way, placing each package in the ovenproof dish. Season lightly.
- Mix the tomato paste and the hot water together. Add the tablespoon of olive oil and gently pour over each of the kebabs. Use all of it.
- Bake in the preheated oven (180C/350F) for 30 minutes.
- Serve with rice pilaf.
A delightful seasonal lunch or supper dish perfect for all of us enjoying a Turkish summer! Islim kebab can in fact be made with chicken or lamb too.
Try it soon before the season starts to change!