I have always drawn comfort from two sources: mostly from my mum and in her absence, from food. I love both and the feeling has always been reciprocated. As a result I am quite a well-fed (pleasantly plump) and well-cared (thoroughly spoilt) child of this earth. The fact that Mum was a brilliant cook added layers to my persona in more ways than one. She initiated my relationship with food from the first morsel lovingly put in my mouth, to the fun times cooking together in the kitchen to the constant adherence to ‘life revolves around food’ philosophy that dominated our typically Punjabi household. Today she is no longer with us, but her recipes constantly remind me of my warm and wonderful mother. This Mother’s Day I send a culinary salute to my darling Mum by sharing this all-time favourite Shammi Kebab recipe, also renowned as ‘Pammy’s kebabs’ or for me simply as ‘mummy’s kebabs’.
Diwali parties were always hosted at our home, and as I grew older I realised that it was because of Mum’s endless supply of kebabs. The card session would continue night-long, along with the consumption of innumerable kebabs. Mum never tired of shallow frying fresh lots of kebabs every hour till early next morning when the last of our guests would leave, reluctantly, to go home. “Bhabhiji! Aapke haath ke kebab khaane ke liye to hum baazi haar ke bhi khush hain,” Dad’s friends would say after losing mostly to Dad, who was an expert at the game, and Mum would beam with pleasure. On this night no one fussed about our bedtime and we stayed up late, tucking into the yummy kebabs. It was a winner of a night for all.
Mum never took short cuts when preparing anything, especially these kebabs. According to her they will only ‘melt in your mouth’ if the ingredients are ground lovingly to perfection. The traditional pestle and mortar was used to grind the lentils and meat together; however I have now replaced this method with a quick whirl in the grinder for the sake of convenience. Over the years I have added my own twist to this recipe keeping in mind ingredients that are easily available and less time consuming (sorry, Mum). Either way this one is sure to tantalize the taste buds.
½ cup split yellow/Bengal gram (chana dal) lentils
½ kg minced lamb/goat meat (try fresh mince from a butcher or deli for best results)
1 medium onion chopped
1-inch piece ginger, grated
1 tsp garlic paste, or 4-6 cloves of garlic chopped
Pinch turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala
1-2 green chillies chopped fine
¼ bunch fresh coriander leaves chopped fine
4-6 mint leaves chopped fine
1 egg whipped with salt and red chilli powder to taste
¼ cup breadcrumbs (optional) if you like them crisp
Salt to taste
Oil to shallow fry
Wash and soak lentils in 1 cup of water for an hour, drain and keep aside. In a pressure cooker put washed mince, soaked lentils, pinch of turmeric, garam masala, onions, ginger, garlic and salt. Add some water and pressure cook till it whistles twice. Wait for pressure to subside, open the cooker and cook on high heat till mixture is dry. Remove from heat. Wait for mixture to cool and then grind it in a food processor. Add coriander, mint, egg and green chilli to the mix after removing it from the processor. Mix well and make roundels by flattening balls of mixture into shape. Use breadcrumbs if the mixture is too fine and crumbly, or if you like the kebabs crisp. Shallow fry the kebabs in a pan till they are golden brown. Drain onto an absorbent paper and serve hot with onion rings and mint chutney.