Cookbooks Meat

Cooking the books: Samarkand

Grilled lamb kebabs

Just squeezing this in before the end of the month! May’s cooking the books looks at Samarkand – recipes & stories from Central Asia & the Caucasus – as chosen by my followers on social media. This book won by a fair margin and I was really pleased because I’ve not had it long and am keen to get stuck in. To recap, if you missed this post from March, cooking the books is something I came up with to try and make better use of my huge collection of cookbooks. The concept is simple – every month I ask my social media followers to vote for one of three books from my collection. Once a winner has been picked I write a quick review to the book, select a recipe at random, I make it and then I blog it!

Caveat – during lockdown I’m choosing the recipe not by random but by what I either already have in or can easily get hold of!

About Samarkand

This book was co-written by Caroline Eden and Eleanor Ford, two wonderful food and travel writers who I admire greatly. In fact, I had the pleasure of chatting with Eleanor recently for an upcoming episode of At the Sauce. I like the mix of journalism and recipes and the photography which is stunning. Central Asia is an area of the world that I don’t think a lot of us really knows and because of that, it feels very magical and far away. The food is a melting pot of flavours influenced by the different ethnic groups across this diverse area of the world. Recipes for roast meats sit alongside soups, plovs, pilafs and creamy dips. And it all looks just so bloody tasty!

Ingredients for Samarkand kebabs

The recipe

I went for the grilled lamb kebabs with cinnamon, cloves & hot hummus. Why? Because we love kebabs in our house and I knew that if I could the finished dish to look anything like the one in the book, it was going to be delicious. Since lockdown, I’ve been using Farmison for our meat. This online butchers has some wonderful quality products and a lot of their meat is rare and heritage breed; including the lamb I used in this recipe. If you want to try them, this link will get you £15 off your first order!

We weren’t disappointed – the kebabs were stunning, both the flavour and the juicy tender meat! And hot hummus – what a revelation! I had no idea people eat it like that. Before I’d read the recipe properly I’d assumed it referred to the Aleppo chilli flakes, not the serving temperature.

Serves 4 (or two very greedy people)

For the kebabs

  • 500g boneless diced leg of lamb
  • 80ml olive oil
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • A bay leaf
  • 1 tsp each of ground cinnamon, cloves and black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

For the hummus

  • 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp tahini (I love the Belazu brand)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Turkish red pepper or Aleppo pepper (I used Korean gochugaru as that’s what I had!!)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts

Hot hummus


  • Make the marinade by combining all of the kebab ingredients into a large freezer bag with the lamb. Massage the cubes of meat through the bag to make sure they’re thoroughly coated and then leave in the fridge over night or up to 24 hours.
  • To prepare the hummus, put the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, spices and salt into a food processor. Add a couple of tablespoons of cold water and turn on the processor. Slowly trickle in the olive oil with the motor running. Blend for a few minutes until smooth. Spoon the hummus into a small ovenproof dish. Scatter with pine nuts and drizzle with olive oil. It will keep in the fridge for a few days until you are ready to serve.
  • Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/ 200c
  • Head the hummus in the oven for 10 mins whilst you cook the lamb.
  • Thread the lamb onto metal skewers. Preheat  griddle pan over a high heat, or use a bbq. Grill the lamb for 3-5 minutes on each side, or until cooked to your liking.
  • Serve with the hot hummus, wedges of lemon and pitta breads.

We served it with a tomato, basil and red onion salad, homemade flatbreads and grilled halloumi. Delicious!

Lamb kebab with hot hummus

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