Shami Kebab

I decided to make Shami Kebabs, which are a patty of ground meet, chickpeas, and seasoning. I’m not so sure that they originated in Afghanistan, but they are widely popular there. The word Shami means Syrian in Arabic. During the Mughal era, they would hire Muslim cooks from all of the world to cook in the royal kitchens. There is a story that this actually came from a chief cooking for a Nawab (Emperor in the Mugal era) and he was toothless, so the chief came up with a dish that would not require teeth.

The first step is to process onions, garlic, and ginger. Then cook it, there is a lot of ginger in this and the aroma fills my kitchen. The recipe I have calls for Lamb, but I learned that in Afghanistan they are typically made with beef. So I add the beef and lentils to the pan with water and brought it to a boil. It isn’t looking so yummy and its boiled beef.



The recipe says to bring to a boil and them simmer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes most of the liquid should be cooked off. This isn’t the case for me, it is super liquidy. So I cook it for another 30 minutes at a slightly higher heat than I would consider a simmer, much more like a boil. However the liquid still hasn’t reduced enough, so continue cooking for another 30 minutes and the liquid is starting to reduce. I cook it for another 15 minutes to get the liquid out. I then put it in the food processor. It isn’t such an appetizing sight and I’m worried I have over cooked it.



The next part is to add some flour to get it so that it can easily form a patty. The meat is still to wet to form a patty; Guess I didn’t reduce this enough…

I think I should have strained the extra liquid?

The recipe says you can add an additional 2 tablespoons of flour if it is too sticky. So I add one table spoon at a time and it is definitely still to sticky. I go ahead and add a single tablespoon and it doesn’t seem to help, so add the second and not enough. I go ahead and add another tablespoon and continue and I get to adding 10 additional tablespoons of flour and it still is too sticky to work with. I decided to stop adding flour by the tablespoon, but just flour my hands and incorprate enough flour per patty.  This ends up working and I’m able to add the stuffing and reshape.



The pictures of the Afghanistan Shami kebabs are in the form of a stick whereas with Pakistani kebabs it is a round patty. However when I shape it it looks like a piece of poo.



I don’t think I can eat it, so I go for a much more appetizing circular patty shape instead. I think mine are larger than intended as the recipe says it will make 16-20. I made 9, oh well its my dinner. They are typically served with a mint or coriander (cilantro) chutney. I find a recipe for Afghanistan Coriander chutney which is what they call Chatnii Gashneez. Mine doesn’t look watery enough, but I’m out of lemons and it tastes good. Tangy cilantro with a little kick.


I have to admit I was scared to try this and thought I would hate it. The color of the meat was not appetizing, over cooked boiled meat, and the impression of the poo stick was still with me. With a shaky fork I try the first bite and my mouth explodes with flavor.  I understand why it is popular. The patty had a complex seasoning with the flavor of cinnamon, hints of ginger, and bite of red onion. The texture is mushy and I would have thought it was made purely from beans.  With the Chatni Gashneez it brought out a tangy cilantro flavor.  I was pleasantly shocked and ate two!






Shami Kebab

Original recipe can be found here

  • 1/2 cup  split yellow peas, soaked in cold water for about an hour

  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped

  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled

  • 2¼ oz fresh root ginger, roughly chopped

  • 2 tbsp ghee

  • 1lb ground beef

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 3 fresh serrano peppers, roughly chopped, with seeds

  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

  • 1 tsp garam masala

  • ½ tsp chlli powder

  • ½ tsp  cumin seeds

  • 1 lime, juiced

  • 1 free-range egg, lightly beaten

  • about 2 tbsp plain flour, to bind

  • vegetable oil, for shallow-frying

For the filling
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped

  • 1 lime, juice only

  • 1 fresh serrano pepper, finely chopped, seeds removed

  • 2 tablespoons mint leaves, finely shredded

  • ¼ tsp sugar

  • ¼ tsp salt

To serve
  • lime wedges, red onion rings and Chatnii Gashneez

Preparation method
  1. Drain the split peas and put them aside. Put the onions, garlic, ginger and two tablespoons of water in a mini food processor and blend to a paste.
  2. Heat the ghee in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion paste and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the ground beef and split peas, pour over enough water to just cover the meat (about 1 1/2 cups), add half a teaspoon of the salt, partially cover with a lid and bring to a boil.
  3. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the lid and cook for a further 5-10 minutes, or until the meat is just starting to brown and catch on the bottom. It’s important that any excess moisture has evaporated. Transfer to a colander and drain any remaining liquid and leave to cool for about 15 minutes, then put into a food processor and blend to a smooth paste.
  4. Add the Serrano peppers, coriander, garam masala. chili powder, cumin, the remaining salt and the lime juice to the beef mixture and blend again, then gradually add enough of the egg to bind the mixture without making it too wet. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the flour to create a mixture you can shape.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together all the filling ingredients.
  6. To shape the kebabs, add flour to your hands and divide the mixture into about 16-20 portions. (If you find the mixture is still a little too wet to shape into patties, then add more flour.)
  7. Drain liquid from the filling.
  8. Shape one portion into a patty about 4cm(1½in) inch diameter and 5mm thick. Put three-quarters of a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the patty, and draw the edges around and over it to encase the filling and form a rough ball. Then flatten it into a 5mm-thick patty. Place on a tray, repeat with the remaining mixture, then chill in the fridge for an hour before cooking.
  9. To fry the kebabs, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the patties in batches for 3 minutes on each side, or until golden-brown and cooked through.
  10. Sprinkle with a little extra salt, and serve warm with lime wedges, red onion rings and Chatni Gasheez on the side.

Chanti Gashneez

Original recipe can be found here

  • 1 cup of roughly chopped cilantro
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 1 Green chili
  • 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Salt
  1. Pack chopped cilantro firmly into cup to measure. Peel garlic and chop roughly; slit chili, remove seeds and chop roughly.
  2. Place prepared ingredients and walnuts in blender or food processor container and process until a textured paste is achieved, adding lemon juice or vinegar gradually while processing.
  3. Add salt to taste, place in a bowl and chill until ready to serve.

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