This recipe is adapted from Little Foods of the Mediterranean by Clifford A. Wright (Harvard Common Press, 2003). The spice blend, baharat, is a necessary ingredient. The amounts below will yield far more than the 2 tablespoons needed, but the blend will keep for several months.
If you use wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water for about half an hour prior to assembly.
The structure and acidity of a Greek Xinomavro will holds its own against the heady spice and sweetness of this dish; recommended producers include Boutari, Kyr-Yianni and Tsantali.
- For the baharat
- 1/4 cup black peppercorns
- 1/4 cup allspice berries
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- For the kebabs
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons baharat
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Ten 8- to 10-inch skewers (see above)
- 50 fresh black or Bing cherries, pitted
- Pita bread
- Tomato wedges
- Pitted black olives
To prepare the baharat: In a spice grinder, grind the peppercorns and allspice together, transfer to a bowl, and blend with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Store in a jar in your spice rack, away from sunlight. It will lose pungency as time goes by, but properly stored, it will be good for many months.
To prepare the kebabs: In a medium bowl, toss the lamb, baharat, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, salt, and pepper together. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for 15 minutes on high heat. Skewer the lamb, interspersed with cherries, using 5 pieces of meat and 4 or 5 cherries per skewer. Place the skewers on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until the meat is browned and springy to the touch, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately on a platter with pita bread, tomato wedges, and black olives.