Cherry Kebab (Kirazlı Kebab)

If you’re firing-up the barbecue and planning something a little different then we couldn’t recommend this cherry-lamb dish more, kindly shared with us from The Turkish Cookbook (Phaidon). The sweet-savoury flavour of lamb and apricots has fond a place in popular cuisine, but lamb and cherries are a delicious riff on this. Best enjoyed early on in the barbecue season when heaps of cherries are juicy and cheap in the supermarkets.


24 shallots, peeled
24 sour black cherries, pitted
50g butter
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp dried chilli (like Urfa Pepper Pul Biber)
1 tsp Aleppo Pepper Pul Biber
¼ tsp salt
1 cinnamon stick
400 ml cherry juice
2tbsp lemon juice
60g pine nuts
For the kebab mixture
400g lamb shoulder, trimmed of sinew, finely chopped
200g lamb brisket, trimmed of sinew, finely chopped
60g onion, finely sliced
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1tsp ground cinnamon

Traditional Serve: 4 x AÇik Ekmek (Ridged Bread). Toast 2 slices and cut into 8 triangles.


Instead of the cherries, you can use sour cherries and mahlepi (mahlab) – an aromatic spice made by grinding the seeds of a certain type of wild cherry. If you don’t have a barbecue, you can use a regular grill (broiler). If you don’t have a zırh (a curved cleaver) for chopping the meat, use regular minced (ground) lamb shoulder and brisket. You will need 4 long cast-iron skewers or 8 flat wooden skewers (soaked).

Prepare a barbecue for cooking or preheat a grill (broiler) to high.

To make the kebab mixture: Knead the lamb, onion, salt, black pepper and ground cinnamon in a large bowl or deep tray for 5 minutes, until well combined. Divide the mixture into 40 equal parts and roll into balls.

Thread the skewers alternately with 3 shallots, 5 meatballs and 5 cherries (shallot / cherry / meat / cherry / meat / shallot / meat / cherry / meat / cherry / meat / cherry / shallot). Make sure they are really snug.

Set the skewers 8 cm (3 inches) above the hot barbecue embers and cook for 5 minutes on each side, turning  every 30 seconds. Draw off the meat, shallots and cherries into a bowl.

Alternatively, grill (broil) the skewers for 3 minutes per side.

Heat the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat,  add the cooked shallots, black pepper, ground ginger, dried chilli (red pepper) flakes, salt and cinnamon stick and fry for 3 minutes. Add the meat and cook for a further 2 minutes. Reduce the heat, add the cherry juice and lemon juice and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the cherries and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the pine nuts and stir through.

Arrange the diced bread in pasta plates and spoon the hot dish over the top. Serve with the bread triangles on the side.

Recipe taken from The Turkish Cookbook (Phaidon)
550 recipes of hearty, healthy Turkish cuisine, from the leading authority on Turkey’s unique food traditions, Musa Dagdeviren, as featured in the Netflix documentary series Chef’s Table

spices used

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