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Vikram Vij’s Gelouti Kebabs

Gelouti Kebabs (Mutton Kebabs)

By Vikram Vij

I grew up in Old Delhi, where the Muslims lived, and the street vendors would make these kebabs during Diwali.

Even though the Festival of Lights was a celebration of prosperity, my father never believed in spending money on frivolous things like street food or firecrackers. He was a clothing merchant. His philosophy during festival season was that we should let everybody else spend their money so that we could make a decent living, and save. It used to dampen my spirit. I loved eating out and being merry. So when I was 15 or 16, I used to go to my grandfather’s shop – he was also a merchant – and sit there and pretend I was working. Then I would say, “Oh, I just have to drop this off to another vendor,” and I would sneak out for a bite. I loved these kebabs because they just melted in your mouth. They were delicious and spicy and I used to sweat like anything. Then when the time came for dinner I was never hungry because I’d eaten so many of these bloody kebabs. My father used to say, “I know you ate on the streets.”

In Lucknow, the birthplace of this dish, I learned that the ruler loved eating meat, but he got gout and lost his teeth. So the cooks would massage the meat till it became so soft. It almost has a pâté texture, and that’s why I love it so much. —V.V.

From Canada’s 100 Best Cooking Issue 2016

4 as an appetizer

  • 500 g (about 1 lb) minced lamb or mutton
  • 90 g (3 oz) fresh papaya, mashed to a pulp
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp dessicated coconut, toasted
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds, toasted
  • ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 8 cloves
  • 5 green cardamom pods
  • 4 black peppercorns
  • 2 black cardamom pods, seeds only
  • 2 mace blades (or 1 generous pinch ground mace)
  • 1 small piece cinnamon bark
  • 250 ml (1 cup) sliced onion
  • 175 ml (3/4 cup) ghee
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) minced coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp minced green chilies
  • 3 tbsp chickpea flour
  • 1 egg
  1. Combine minced meat, papaya, ginger, garlic, chili powder and salt in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add coconut, poppy seeds, nutmeg, cloves, green cardamom, peppercorns, black cardamom,mace and cinnamon to the bowl of a spice grinder, and pulverize.
  3. Add ground spice to the meat mixture and mix well.
  4. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours and up to overnight.
  5. Meanwhile, in a skillet on medium heat, fry the onion in 125 ml (1/2cup) of the ghee until brown and crisp.
  6. Remove onions with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towels.
  7. Mince, and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the coriander leaves, chilies, flour and egg, and mix well.
  8. Add to the cold meat mixture, and mix thoroughly. Shape into patties of desired size, arrange on a tray, and set aside in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes.
  9. Heat a non-stick skillet on medium. Add the remaining ghee, and sear the patties until bronzed—2-3 minutes per side.
  10. Serve on a warm platter garnished with lemon wedges