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Toothless Nawab Kebab (page 2 of 2)

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In Lucknow, kebabs are meat patties delicately flavored with spices and fried in clarified butter on a large tray. Here is one so soft you don't need your teeth to eat it. Honest!
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Peel and crush a garlic clove and a thumb-sized piece of ginger.

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Indian meat is sold freshly butchered. As a result, it is much tougher than what we get in the West. Indian chefs have long used various ingredients to tenderize the meat - yogurt, lemon juice, vinegar, pineapple and my favorite, papaya, which contains an enzime - papain - that would soften bones if you left them long enoug. We will use papaya but mix it in only half an hour before cooking - our second layer of decadence.

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Cut the papaya in half and remove the seeds. Scoop out the flesh of one half and grind it or chop it to a pulp.

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Dig a well into your ground meat ...

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and add a piece of butter at room-temperature. This will be our third layer of decadence. Lamb fat is considered less noble than butter - but it is more tasty.

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Finally add your ground roasted lentils and spices ...

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... and mix everything together until you have a smooth paste.

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Pour a little oil into a bowl to oil your fingers and palms.

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Form apricot-sized meat patties, oiling your hands as you go to prevent the meat from sticking. Wash your hands carefully afterwards, they will be coated with fragments of chili and papaya and they might tenderize part of your body you don't intend to eat.

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Oil your largest frying pan with clarified butter or oil. Do not use butter as it might burn.

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Cook on medium-high, turning from time to time with kitchen tongs, until both sides of each patty is well-browned. See how the above-pictured gentleman in the Chowk is carefully checking each kabab.

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There we are - three layers of decadence and no teeth required! The most delicious kabab on earth humbly cooked in my own kitchen!

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The flesh is incredibly soft and fragrant. Serve with an Indian flat-bread such as chapati or paratha. As my driver in Lucknow says, 'You are now like Nawab person'.

Published 18/02/2008
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34 Comments

  • #1
  • Comment by Joanna
  • on: 18/02/2008
Wow that sounds AMAZING, can't wait to try!Joanna
  • #2
  • Comment by Beatrice
  • on: 18/02/2008
I'm having trouble finding good papaya in Europe; in California I used to get Hawaiian fruit that's wonderful - just add lime juice.  At the beach we've used papaya for years as an antidote to jellyfish stings. I'll try this recipe soon!  
  • #3
  • Comment by Bryan
  • on: 18/02/2008
FX,This recipe looks great.  How much of the spices would you say you used?  Can ground cardamon be substituted for the seeds?  Also I wanted to ask you, if you could choose just one book by Pierre Herme, what would it be?  Any recommendations?  I, recently discovered Pierre Herme through your website and really want to try some of his recipes.  Any suggested recipes?  The website is really a fabulous tool and resource for foodies alike.  Thanks alot.-Bryan
Fascinating. I made Kashmir Meatballs which were quite tender with the addition of yogurt in the meat as well as a yogurt water slurry which finished the cooking. But the other layers of luxury in these kebabs...v interesting especially the papaya.  My mother used to marinate her bulgogi in mashed kiwi- I believe it was her invention and not traditionally Korean! Thanks for another terrific post.
  • #5
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 18/02/2008
Joanna, thanks for visiting and I hope you'll have a chance to try the Toothless Nawab Kebab!
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 18/02/2008
Beatrice there is no need for an especially good papaya for this recipe, and you could even used dried papaya powder. I am new to papayas and couldn't tell a good from a bad one!
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 18/02/2008
Bryan, for the cardamom you should really only use whole cardamom pods and remove the seeds right before use. The spice mix is a matter of judgement but I'll try to post precise proportions later this week.

For Pierre Hermé the best bang for your bucks will be either the Larousse des Desserts or le Larousse du Chocolat, but neither offer very Hermé-specific recipes. For those you can have Secrets Gourmands for relatively simple recipes, or go the whole way with PH10 his book for professional pastry chefs. All of them are unfortunately - insofar I know - only available in French.
  • #8
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 18/02/2008
Callipygia thanks a lot for visiting!
I love papaya, especially huge ones! I never imagined it would go so well with lamb--a must try for me. We often mix it with rock sugar, forest frog oviduct (yes!) and silver ear(a type of fungus) to make soup. Rumor has it that papaya contains female hormone, so be careful, Francois. :)
  • #10
  • Comment by Bryan
  • on: 18/02/2008
Hi Francois,Thanks for the quick response.  I will look into the books you prescribed.  Hopefully, someday PH10 will be in english for me.  I also wanted to ask you two other questions in regards to Pierre Herme.  The first is about a book.  Do you happen to have any opinion of his book titled "The Patisserie of Pierre Hermé"?  This seems to be the best book for Herme in english according to reviews I have read and I wanted to see what you thought.  I also wanted to ask you if you are aware of any of his books which contain a recipe for Tarte Infinitement Vanille.  I have been looking for this recipe for ages on the web and can't seem to find it anywhere.  Thanks again for the help.-Bryan
  • #11
  • Comment by Kim
  • on: 19/02/2008
Your site is such a treat to enjoy literally. Your presentation of the recipes is a wonderful concoction of history, well thought out point of view, vivid photographs and great resources.  It is like you are taking your readers along with you on your worldwide food journey.  Thank you for sharing this one aspect of your passion.  I notice as I read through your recipes that salt and pepper are mostly not used.  Is it because these ingredients are truly not necessary to enhance the dish in your recipe or are they only added right before consumption according to taste?
  • #12
  • Comment by Beatrice
  • on: 19/02/2008
While I agree with cheesepuff (cute handle) that the large (sometimes 5 pounds) Mexican/Caribbean variety can be good, the small half-pound pear-shaped yellow-orange ones are tops in my book both for cooking and for eating out of hand.  Just pull a Rangpur lime off your tree and sprinkle it with juice! The small ones seem to be more reliable in the flavour and texture of their meat, too.  But to each his own.  Francois, I think I will serve the kebabs with a Rangpur raita...Rangpurs are now being grown in Florida--if you can find them they are alternately called mandarine-lime.  If you can't find anything papaya, pepsin will do, but you won't get that lovely flavour.
  • #13
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 19/02/2008
Bryan, I am not sure what La pâtisserie de Pierre Hermé has been translated from. Beware, his pies can take you 3 hours to prepare, all sorts of different mixtures. Daunting! The recipe must be in PH10.
  • #14
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 19/02/2008
Kim, thank you for your praise of my humble blog! I may have forgotten to mention salt and pepper as they are part of most savory dishes. Salt is definitely best added before serving, otherwise you'd end up with a bland inside and an extremely salty surface.
  • #15
  • Comment by Shari
  • on: 17/03/2008
WOW...your blog is amazing and your food looks wonderful. I'm really impressed and would love to hear more about how you started your blog and how it has evolved.
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 18/03/2008
Shari, thanks for visiting! You can click on the About page to know how my blog started, basically I wanted to share the magical moments I spend in the kitchen with as many people as possible. The dishes themselves only live for an hour and then they are a memory. Pictures, however, can be enjoyed by many for a long time!
  • #17
  • Comment by rose
  • on: 29/03/2008
FX Cuisine, you reminded me of my parents tenderizing meat with papaya leaves. However they discarded the leaves before they used the meat for the recipe. It is the enzymes in the papaya and the leaves; that breaks the meat molecules down. As a matter of fact, I got some venison from my friend, and finding papaya or papaya leaves is hard, i used yogurt before I stir fried the venison, I also used a little cornstarch in the marinate. Your pictures work!
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 30/03/2008
Rose, thanks for visiting! I have a whole leg of lamb marinating in papaya-and-spices purée right now. I will remove it, then move to a yogurt marinade for a while, then in the oven, then finally in the tandoor. Worth every BTU!
  • #19
  • Comment by Christine
  • on: 02/04/2008
Great site here - glad to have found it. The format and writing are really fun. Will be trying some of your recipes soon.
  • #20
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 03/04/2008
Thanks Christine, let me know if there is anything I could change for the better on my website and good luck with making your first recipe!
  • #21
  • Comment by parshu.narayanan
  • on: 05/04/2008
Ah, galoutis ("melting things") on fx cuisine - it feels like you have just visited me at home fx! They are a favoutite with my whisky-swilling guests in Delhi.As they are often too delicate to pick up with your fingers and pop in,  I stuff them into small canape shells, press a small bit of vinegared onion on top and serve them as more convenient finger food with the drinks. Bazaar legend has it that someone attempted to assasinate the the toothless nawab by slipping a tiger whisker into a kabab,so he would choke on it.
  • #22
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 06/04/2008
Parshu, do you make your own galoutis?
  • #23
  • Comment by parshu.narayanan
  • on: 07/04/2008
No fx, I dont make them at home, only a fearless and skilled master like you can pull them off at home ( and that too in another continent!). In my bachelor days when my kitchen was non-vegetarian, I would make its far humbler cousin, shammi kabab (deep-fried patties -  mincemeat, gram-dal, ginger-garlic-chillies-spices, bound with egg/soaked bread ). I order in galoutis or call the kebab man home, who sets up his pan and charcoal stove (like the pic here) on my rooftop terrace. I have also called home a craftsman to make the equally popular skewer version, the kakori kabab. Calling the kabab-man home for parties is a common practice in North India.
  • #24
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 07/04/2008
Parshu, what a delightful occupation this kebab man of yours has! Perhaps you might send me pictures of such a party one day, I'd be delighted to post it here.
  • #25
  • Comment by parshu.narayanan
  • on: 07/04/2008
Will definitely do so from the next one fx, a pleasure and an honour. Though its unlikely that even with auto focus and image stabilisation we will be able to generate an image good enough for your site :-)
  • #26
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 08/04/2008
Parshu, you are too kind! Just try go get more than 1000 pixels image width and no flash. If you can make pictures that show also the contexts or the people who cook or eat, it always makes more interesting pictures than close-up shots on the food. Thanks!
  • #27
  • Comment by Rajeev
  • on: 11/06/2008
Love you site ....
In India we typically eat Goat meat which does often need some kind of tenderizer. The surprise was your use of ripe papaya. Typically,I have always used raw papaya as a tenderizer. Just curious, did the ripe papaya add sweetness to the kebab ?
  • #28
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/06/2008
Rajeev, thanks for visiting! The papaya did bring some sweetness but it was entirely welcome. There is not much needed by way of tenderizing for such tender meat!
  • #29
  • Comment by Angelo
  • on: 04/08/2008
Looks really good. I can't wait to try it. My family is fond of Middle Eastern Cuisine.

In the Philippines we use green(unripe) papayas to tenderize meat. It actually has more papain than ripe papayas so you don't have to wait so long to get results. It has a bland flavor and might serve you better if you are marinading/tenderizing meat. Unripe papaya has a crisp texture like cucumber though and it may show up in the meat patties. To avoid this I grate it really finely using the end of the cheese grater with the smallest holes.

Although you may have difficulty getting unripe papaya from where you are...
  • #30
  • Answered by fx
  • on: 12/08/2008
Angelo, indeed the papayas have plenty of time to ripen until they get to Europe and they never are green. However our meats are already very tender so we need very short tenderizing otherwise they turn to pudding. Thanks for your visit!
Just taking Rajeev's point further, could it be that you managed with a ripe papaya as you had made a paste of the meat itself. I am from Awadh, and mince is used at most places including the most famous 'Tunde Kabab' in Lucknow. I was also suprised by the use of the ripe papaya, as we only talk of 'raw papaya' as a tenderiser - but if your experiment is successful, means we have been blindly following tradition and papain in raw or ripe papaya is the same quantity with same effect. Other possibility is that ripe papaya may not suit Indian palate and hence the use of raw papaya. I really dont know (being from Awadh itself, I never asked these questions thinking the only way to make it is the way we made it - our stupid arrogance/ignorance!), so will be good to know what other's think
  • FX's answer→ Siddhartha, in fact we don't get many raw papayas here, and it may well be that ripe papayas tenderize meat less readily than raw fruits, but European meats are waaaay more tender than the freshly killed meats sold by Indian butchers, so it may balance it out!

  • #33
  • Comment by Suresh
  • on: 26/05/2009
Great blog FX. I live in Ottawa, Canada and about 3 weeks ago I found minced raw papaya being sold in jars in an Indian grocery store. This was a pleasant surprise and I bought a bottle. I have sinced used it numerous times for making kababs, burgers etc which turn out incredibly soft and with a wonderful texture. The only downside is that the bottle of raw papaya needs to be tored refrigerated after opening and consumed within a month. However, considering kababs are my favorite dish this should noty be a problem.
  • #34
  • Comment by lili
  • on: 11/03/2011
Thank you for your recipe, so clearly explained. I made these yesterday and they tasted a lot like like those I had the pleasure of eating in Lucknow recently. My guests loved it.
I have 1/2 papaya left, I will freeze that to use in the future. The tenderising effect is incredible, even though mine was a rather ripe papaya. Can't wait to buy hard meat and play with it again, LOL. Will do your recipe again! Namaste from Paris, France!

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