Tuesday 11 May 2010

Cape-Malay-Style Curried Lamb Kebabs with Apricots

A sosatie (so-sar-tee) is what South Africans call the full-size version of this succulent and highly spiced lamb or mutton kebab.

Drenched in a turmeric-yellow, sharp-sweet marinade, sosaties of this sort are usually threaded with chunks of raw onion, dried fruit and fresh bay or lemon leaves; traditionally they contained chunks of sheep fat, which helped keep the meat juicy.

My bite-sized version contains little fat, and the lamb is tenderised by a long marinating time and a small amount of plain yoghurt.

Welcome to the third in my series of delicious, easy football snacks with a South African flavour.

This is the sort of recipe that can bring tears to the eyes of a South African living away from home, so evocative is it of the lazy, woodsmoky scent of a traditional braai [barbeque].  This is one of the classics of South African cuisine, and is certainly - along with bobotie - the best-known of all Cape Malay dishes.

Some claim that the name 'sosatie' is derived from a combination of the words 'saus' [sauce] and 'sate', but the authoritative Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principles tells me that the Afrikaans/Dutch name 'sasaatje' comes from the Javanese word 'sesate', which means 'meat on skewers'.

The word first appeared in print, says the dictionary, in 1833.  So popular were these kebabs in the early days of the Cape, says that wonderful raconteur Lawrence Green in his book Tavern of the Seas, that many of the taverns of old Cape Town were known as 'Sosatie and Rice houses'.

Hildagonda Duckitt's "Where is it?" of Recipes, first published in 1891, gives a recipe for 'sasaties or kabobs' that does not differ substantially from a sosatie you might be offered at a family braai today, 120 years later.  As is the case with any hallowed recipe, every cook has his or her own closely guarded formula.

Sosaties are always cooked over hot coals. If you don't have access to a barbeque, you can cook them under a fiercely hot preheated oven grill. For an authentic taste, put the meat very close to the grill at first so that the edges of the meat and fruit just begin to catch and blacken. Then move the sosaties to the middle of the oven, turn down the heat and bake until the lamb is cooked through.

If you can't find lemon or orange leaves, use bay leaves (but citrus leaves are best, as they infuse the lamb with a wonderful perfume as it cooks). Ask your butcher for lamb from the leg or shoulder, or for some nice fatty mutton, if he has it.  You can add petals of raw onion to these kebabs, but be warned that they will retain a bit of raw crunch.

You will find all the ingredients below in a good spice shop.

Cape-Malay Style Curried Lamb Kebabs with Apricots

750 g lamb from the leg or shoulder, cut into large cubes
fresh lemon or orange leaves
24 dried apricots
melted butter for brushing

For the marinade:
40 g dried tamarind pulp
1 cup (250 ml) boiling water
4 Tbsp (60 ml) vegetable oil
2 onions, peeled and very finely chopped
3 cardamom pods
1 thumb-length quill of cinnamon
1 red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 Tbsp (30 ml) grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) ground cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
1 tsp (5 ml) red chilli powder
3 Tbsp (45 ml) white wine vinegar
80 ml thick fruit chutney (Mrs Ball's Original, if you can find it)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) sugar
2 tsp (10 ml) mild curry powder
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) turmeric
½ cup (125 ml) water
salt and milled black pepper
the juice of half a lemon
½ cup (125 ml) plain white yoghurt

Put the tamarind in a small bowl and cover it with the boiling water. Set aside. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and onion. Cook, over a brisk heat, for 5 minutes, or until the onions take on a golden colour.

Add the chilli, ginger and garlic and cook for another minute or so, without allowing the garlic to brown. Stir in the cumin, coriander and chilli powder and allow to sizzle or two minutes, or until you have a rich golden paste. Now add the vinegar and chutney, turn down the heat and allow to bubble for three minutes.

Using your fingers, break up the tamarind pulp in the water. Tip the lot into a sieve set over a bowl, pressing down on the pulp to extract the juice. Discard the pulp. Pour the tamarind water into the pan and add the sugar, curry powder, turmeric and water.  Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.  Stir in the lemon juice and yoghurt.

Tip the marinade into a deep plastic or ceramic dish and add the lamb cubes. Stir well to coat, cover and place in the fridge for at least 24 hours, or longer if possible (you can make these three or four days in advance).

Pour some boiling water over the apricots and allow to soak for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Soak some slim satay sticks in water for 10 minutes. Cut the lemon, orange or bay leaves into pieces the size of a postage stamp.

Thread a piece of lamb onto a satay stick, then add a slice of lemon leaf, then an apricot, then another piece of lemon leaf, and finally a piece of lamb. Brush a little extra marinade over the sosaties. Grill, over hot coals, turning frequently, for 6-10 minutes, depending on the heat of your fire, or until the lamb is cooked right through (see my notes, above, about oven-cooking).

Brushing the kebabs with melted butter as they cook will give you a nice glossy finish. Serve piping hot. If you like, you can bring the remains of the marinade to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes and serve as a dipping sauce.

Makes about 24 snack-sized kebabs.

Like this soccer snack? Try my Mini Pita Breads with Spicy Meatballs and HoummousMini Bunny Chow with Butter Chicken and Potato, Cheese and Chilli Phyllo Triangles

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Marisa said...

Okay, that's it. I'm camping at your house for the World Cup.

Nina Timm said...

Marisa and I will take a double room, ok!! There are few things as tasty as a BBQ sosatie...my mouth is watering!!!

Jane-Anne said...

A sleep-over party! That would be brilliant. Are you in Cape Town Marisa?

dfinnie said...

These lamb kebabs were amazing! I followed the recipe exactly and marinated the lamb for 2 days for a rather large BBQ. It's great to be able to prepare things ahead of time, isn't it?!?! People raved and a few told me it was the best BBQ they'd ever been to. I'll definitely make them again...and again....and again. Thank you!

Jane-Anne said...

Thanks for the feedback, dfinnie. So glad they were good.

Stephanie said...

These were fabulous! We had them with home-made onion seed flat-breads to mop up the sauce and they have rocketed into the list of top-10 feasts (we are greedy foodies!). Thank you!

Jane-Anne said...

Thank you very much for the feedback Stephanie. I'm so glad you enjoyed them! Your comment has made my day.