Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Moroccan skewered and grilled meat - Kabab

Brochettes of meat, kidney or liver are one of the classic options in Moroccan street food.

Brochettes (skewers in French) are the siblings of Turkish shish kebab, only the meat is marinated differently but more importantly cut smaller. However, for some reason, kebab in many countries refers to skewers of ground meat/kofte and I suffered a bit with this misinterpretation in many countries especially those with an Ottoman influence.

In Morocco, we don't go to fancy restaurants to eat Kabab or qotban/qodban (Arabic for skewers). We had to specialist fast food joints for this. The bigger the city, the longer the list becomes. Not only that. Each weekly market has its lot of grilling people and each main national road from a main city to another has coffee shops/food joints serving brochettes (and tagines) of all sorts. I have to say that fish or chicken brochettes would be limited to a few cities but that's not the topic of this post.

There is something about grilled kabab of any kind. Whenever I walk somewhere where there is a grilling activity happening, the scent of the roasted meat and burning fat draws me to it and I end up ordering even if I had no intention to do it. It's what they call the market of smoke.

Kabab usually comes with a seasoned fresh salad of tomatoes and onions, cucumber can be added. Depending where you order it, it may come with fries and green olives. Bread is part of the deal while a cold drink or a hot tea is an option unless you have asked for a menu. I know some fast food places started adding white sauce and cheese to this wonderful sandwich and I find it just wrong but If it's still around, that means some people like it.

In our houses, we grill kabab of all sorts over an oblong brazier (called kanoun or mejmar) of glowing coal, which means we have to wait for the high flames to calm down before putting the grill over them, which technically might take between 25 to 30 minutes.

Serves 4 - 6
Prep: 20 min - cooking: 10-20 min
  • 1 kg of boned leg of lamb or beef or any tender part, cut into cubes of no more that 1.5 cm 
  • 150 g of mutton or beef fat/suet from around the kidney, cut just like the meat
Dry marinade
  • 1 large yellow onion or 2 medium, grated medium or finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of flat leaves parsley, finely chopped
  • About 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of ground black pepper
Serve with the following options
  • A mix of cumin, salt and ground cayenne pepper
  • A thinned harissa 
  • A Moroccan-style salsa.
Brochettes must be accompanied with
  • Moroccan bread or pita or baguette
  • Fresh salad
  • Chopped raw onions
  • Chopped parsley


It is important to trim the meat from most of its fat before cutting it into cubes of about 1.5 cm.

Cut the fat/suet about the same size. Fold in the chopped or grated onions and chopped parsley. Season and mix with your hands for a minute to make sure everything is well combined.

Cover with a clin film. Leave to marinate at least for 2 hrs and up to 8 hours.

Thread about 8 cubes of meat in each skewer and alternate with cubes of fat. Make sure you start and end with meat. Wooden ones will need pre-soaking before using them while the metallic ones don't need any special treatment. It's important you do not leave space between the cubes of meat and fat. Hold the skewer with one hand and squeeze the threaded cubes with the other all along as it helps spreading them along the skewers but also brings them together.

Cover and prepare the brasero/bbq as indicated above.

Grill each side for a few minutes and turn the kabab skewers to the other side. It should be well done and juicy from inside according to Moroccan standards.

Serve 3 hot brochettes by person


The same marinade can be used to make Moroccan chargrilled cutlets (lamb chops) or steaks.

Rumsteak, gigot, filet (French words) are the cuts needed to make Moroccan kabab del lham.

Kabab is always served hot. Slide the cubes of meat (discard the fat if you want) into 1/2 small bread or 1/2 baguette or pita, then sprinkle with cumin, salt, cayenne and press the sandwich between your fingers to release the juices in the hearth of the bread. The fresh salad can be added in the sandwich, harissa too.

Serve with a hot Moroccan tea. Otherwise, a green tea with a few mint leaves inside will do.

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