A quick personality test: Do you eat meat? And, quite unrelatedly, are you by any chance an admirer of controversial and outspoken 19th-century French poet Charles Baudelaire? If yes – then you are my kind. 🙂
For a variety of reasons, this year I went on a three-month completely vegan diet, which also to a large extent excluded sugar and dough. When this ordeal was over, I was wiser and stronger spiritually (I hope), but was also fully convinced that going totally vegan is not for me. Women gain muscle hard and lose it easily, so I am not giving up my lean protein anymore.
Now I am back on track with my habitual shredding regimen with renewed enthusiasm. In line with this, I have recently tried to cook home-made kebapcheta – those finger-shaped pieces of spiced minced meat, variants of which are typical of many Balkan and Middle Eastern cuisines. If you’d like, you can check out this post for a couple of pictures of kebapcheta served in Bulgarian restaurants.
Here, people usually cook store-bought kebapcheta – either on their balconies (so working-class, I know :)), or on barbecues in their yards (covering all the spectrum from traditional to hipster :)).
Store-bought kebapcheta are delicious and very juicy, but they are unfortunately very likely to contain mystery meat and be loaded with fat, salt, soy, and who knows what else. So I have searched for tips and recipes, both online and in books, on how to make kebapcheta at home.
If you want to join in the experiment, you’ll need:
- 500 g of minced meat, may be pre-packaged, but better ground from actual pieces of meat in front of you. A 40/60 mixture of beef and pork, or fully pork is recommended.
- Salt, ground black pepper and cumin;
- 1 table spoonful of vinegar;
- Mix the meat with about 100 ml of water and knead until absorbed. Add salt, black pepper and cumin to taste, place in an appropriately-sized baking dish in a layer not thicker than 5-6 cm, cover with clingfilm and let it rest for about 24 hours in the fridge.
- Re-knead on the following day and let rest for about 6 hours more. Or a day. It won’t spoil, don’t worry. I actually did this later, but I think it would have been better to do it earlier – at this point you may treat the meat with a handheld blender to soften it and break some of the sinews and harder muscle parts in it. Touch lightly with your tongue to check for saltiness and spices, adjust what needs to be adjusted, and put in the fridge again.
- When the day of shaping and baking the kebapcheta has finally arrived, you take them out of the fridge for about 30 minutes to soften. Then you shape on your meat cutting-board and arrange on the oven rack. For shaping, you take a ball of meat as large as a large apricot, place on the cutting board and start rolling your palm over it until it is elongated into a kebapche. You may smooth the edges with your fingers to make it look neat.
- Then, in a small bowl, prepare a 1/1 mixture of vinegar and water and smear the kebapcheta on all sides. I have a silicone pastry brush for that, but my daughter likes to play with it, so I could not find it. If you don’t have one, using your fingers is just as fine.
- To bake, preheat the upper heater of your oven to about 200 degrees C. Insert the rack with the kebapcheta in the upper half of the oven close to the heater, and place your oven’s shallow pan below to collect the dripping fat. You don’t want that all over the oven, do you? 🙂
- Bake until they start smelling like ready, but pay close attention to not overbake, as I probably did, a bit. This is an oven, not a barbecue, so don’t expect the kebapcheta to have those appetising black rib marks. If they remain in the oven for too long, they’ll become dry.
- Dear Reader, I wish to brag that the kebapcheta were as juicy as those store-bought ones, but they were not. They were very tasty and just right in terms of saltiness and spiciness, but definitely drier. I liked them and my children liked them too – they said they tasted like karnacheta – a type of barbecue-baked thin sausage shaped as a spiral, which is on the drier side.
The kebapcheta got eaten at one sitting, so I take consolation in that. I personally could eat them this way, but I was expecting them to be more succulent, so I’ve accepted the challenge to try and tweak the recipe to achieve a juicier result.
I could for example soften the meat with the blender and shape the kebapcheta after the first 24-hour rest and place them in a marinade of oil, salt, cumin and black pepper, to replicate their own spices; and leave them like that for 24 hours more. I could also use higher heat, like 250 C, so that they are baked for a shorter time. This will leave the inside juicier for sure.
And, if you are at a loss as to the pertinence of the Baudelaire question I asked at the beginning, I would like to clear out the fog, by treating you to excerpts of a suggestive Flowers of Evil poem, related to the flesh. 😛
I love the thought of ancient, naked days
When Phoebus gilded statues with its rays.
Then women, men in their agility,
Played without guile, without anxiety,
And, while the sky stroke lovingly their skin,
They tuned to health their excellent machine.
Man had the right, robust and flourishing,
Of pride in beauties who proclaimed him king,
Pure fruit unsullied, lovely to the sight,
Whose smooth, firm flesh went asking for the bite!
I hope you’re amused, not scandalised. 🙂