One of eastern Africa's legacies from the period of British colonialism is a large population of people from India.
They have, in many cases, brought their culinary traditions with them, and the streets of cities such as Mombasa in Kenya are pungent with the aroma of curries cooking and the smoky perfume of kebabs being grilled over wood braziers.
The kebabs in this recipe are prepared with ground lamb and have some of the tastes of the Middle East and of Mughal India. Even a small habanero chili pepper has a big impact.
> Kofta Kebabs
1 large onion
2 medium cloves garlic
1 small habanero chili pepper
1 pound ground lamb, preferably from the farmers market
2 teaspoons hot Madras-style curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Leaves from 3 sprigs cilantro
Kosher salt (optional)
Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches beneath the broiler element; preheat the broiler. Have 4 metal skewers, preferably flat, at hand. Line a rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan with aluminum foil (for easier cleanup).
Cut the onion into chunks, and coarsely chop the garlic. Carefully stem and seed the habanero chili pepper, then coarsely chop the flesh; transfer the 3 ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until minced.
Drain as much of the liquid from the vegetable mixture as possible, then transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl. Add the lamb, curry powder, cinnamon and cloves. Use a fork or flexible spatula to incorporate the spices and onion mixture into the meat.
Mince the cilantro leaves and add to the mixing bowl; use a fork or flexible spatula to incorporate. Taste, and add salt if needed.
Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions, then, working with one at a time, use your hands to form a football-shaped kebab about 3 inches long. Thread 2 on each metal skewer, spaced at least 1/2 inch apart. (Be sure to wash your hands afterward to avoid any habanero-related mishaps.) The meat kebabs should be smooth and molded tight to the skewer.
Place the skewers on the lined baking sheet or broiler pan.
Broil for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned on top, then carefully turn them over to broil for 10 to 12 minutes on the second side; when done, they should be browned and sizzling.
The lamb should be just cooked through, with no trace of pink (check with the tip of a sharp knife).
Place one skewer on each plate. Serve hot, with white rice. 4 servings.
For this recipe, it's best to use metal skewers, preferably the flat kind, which will hold the kebabs in place more firmly.
Serve with (instant) brown rice and sliced cucumbers.
Adapted from "The Africa Cookbook," by Jessica B. Harris (Simon & Schuster Trade Paperbacks, 2010).
Nutrition: Per serving: 350 calories, 20g protein, 6g carbohydrates, 27g fat, 12g saturated fat, 85mg cholesterol, 70mg sodium, 1g dietary fiber, 2g sugar