The Indo-Mediterranean spice story & Kebabs

I was recently looking up some recipes for authentic Mediterranean food and I was surprised to learn that most of the Mediterranean food and Indian food is connected. The spice mixes used are similar, the ingredients used are similar, just the cooking techniques vary a bit to adapt geographically. For example, there is use of olive oil in Mediterranean food (since it amply available in those regions) and the use of ground-nut oil, coconut oil and Ghee is common in Indian food since those ingredients are available in India. 

Mediterranean region includes a variety of cultures each with its distinct cuisines. These include, the Maghrebi, the Egyptian, the Levantine, the Ottoman (Turkish), the Italian, the Provencial, and Spanish culture. Also the geographical impact of Mediterranean Sea and the regions climate makes an impact on the food habits in these region. Similarly Indian cuisine is as diversified as the country itself. Based on the geography of the country, the foods change. India also has a vast coastal stretch which has aided in development of a varied coastal food cuisine in India. Just like in the Mediterranean regions, in India too, it is common to consume salt cured dried fish. These are some of the common dishes between Mediterranean and Indian culture which I have come across –   

  1. The Baigan Bharta in India is similar to the Baba Ghanoush, the Indian version is slightly spicy and nutty with inclusion of green chillies and peanuts. Similarly the Daal in India is very similar to the Mediterranean lentil soup.
  2. The Indian Kebabs and Mediterranean Kebabs are related too. The spices used in marination of these kebabs are similar.
  3. The Lentil soup having its roots in the bible and a common delicacy in the French and Middle Eastern regions is commonly known as Dal in India. (You will find a wide range of Dals too in India) 
  4. The Halva (flour and nut based confectionery sweet) is common both in India and Egypt, Iran and Middle East. 

The spices used in cooking are common too. Indian cooking involves use of Chili powder, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, bay leaf and all spice, so does Mediterranean food. When you read the recipes for Mediterranean and Indian food you realize that although the spices and the ingredients are the same, the cooking method and the quantity in which the spices are used varies. I am still reading up on how this similarity came into existence and am experimenting between a fusion of Mediterranean and Indian tastes and I started with my favorite..Kebabs. 

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Mediterranean kebabs are made using spices such as bay leaf, allspice, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and Indian kebabs are made using the same spices along with garam masala and they are usually marinated in yogurt. Yogurt or Lime works well for tenderizing the meat so I wanted to use one of these. Since I was planning on making a yogurt dip to go with the kebabs, I decided to marinate them with lime. 

I decided to make a mild spice mix of smoked paprika, red chili powder, cinnamon, cardamon (for the Indian blend) along with all spice, salt and pepper. Also Mediterranean spice mixes are blended with olive oil before being applied on the meat and set for marination for around 8-10 hours or even overnight. I also added a bit of lime juice to tenderize the meat and aid the marination and let it rest overnight. 

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The Indo-Mediterranean spice mix

The next day, I grilled the meat at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for around 15 minutes before broiling it for another 5-7 minutes till slightly charred. I served it with home-made whole-wheat flat bread, yogurt sauce, chopped bell peppers and onions. 

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My choice of serving style with flatbread, veggies and a dollop of the yogurt dip

The best part about these kebabs is that they are extremely versatile, require very little oil and you can make them beforehand and grill them in time for your meals. Here are a few variations for these kebabs – 

Kebabs & Rice –  

Serve these with some rice spiced with turmeric & nuts to make a delicious scrumptious meal for the family 

Wraps 

This is my favorite variant. I love to make wraps with these kebabs and stir fried veggies. You can add a bit of home made hummus or yogurt sauce for making it more delicious.

Appetizers – 

Just the grilled kebabs by themselves are delicious enough. Garnish them with onions and serve them with the yogurt dip 

Salad- 

Toss the kebabs with freshly chopped lettuce, spinach and any other greens of your choice, add some onions for the crunch and tomatoes for the tang, top it with lime juice salt and pepper for a great summer time salad!


Ingredients

  • 500 grams boneless chicken thighs (cut into small bite sized pieces) 
  • 1 tbsp red chili powder
  • 1 tbsp all spice mix
  • 1/2 tbsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin powder
  • pinch of cardamon powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice of one lime
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil 

Instructions 

  • Mix together the spices in a bowl. (You can increase or decrease the quantities for chili powder as per your choice) 
  • Pour in the olive oil and lime juice and whisk till its well blended
  • Pour this marinade over the chicken  and mix to coat it well. Let this rest at least for an hour and preferably for more than 12 hours
  • Heat oven till 450 degree Fahrenheit / 220 degrees Celsius and cook for 15 minutes or cooked through. 
  • Make sure you stir the kebabs at least once while cooking. 
  • You can also fry them on a pan or skewer them and grill them over coals (grilling would make them taste much more better)
  • Serve them in any way you prefer with a dip, in a wrap or with rice 🙂

THE YOGURT DIP

This is a garlic based yogurt dip. Mince around 3 medium cloves of garlic and whisk them with a cup of Greek Yogurt. Add salt to taste and once well blended you can top it off with freshly chopped mint and cilantro

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Drizzle the yogurt dip over some grilled veggies and kebabs 

 

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