This recipe comes to us from Nik Sharma of A Brown Table, via the San Francisco Chronicle. The juniper berries add a subtle pine-like flavor note to the lamb, pairing nicely with the traditional Indian aromatics of coriander, cumin and ginger.
Serves 4 to 6
Cucumber Raita Ingredients:
1 large cucumber
2 cups plain unsweetened yogurt
¼ cup chilled water
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
1½ tablespoons dried juniper berries
8-10 black peppercorns
1½ teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1½ teaspoons sea salt
2-inch piece peeled ginger root
4 garlic cloves
1½ cups diced white onions
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 lbs. boneless lamb shoulder, fat trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1-2 large tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
Extra olive oil for grilling
To make the cucumber raita: Trim the top and bottom of the cucumber and slice it in half across its length. Using a tablespoon, core out the seeds from the center and discard. Dice the cucumber into chunks and set aside. In a medium-size mixing bowl, lightly whisk the remaining ingredients; taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Fold in the cucumber and chill covered in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.
To make the kebabs: Coarsely grind all the dry spices: cayenne, juniper, peppercorns, coriander, cumin and salt. (I like to use a mortar and pestle, just to crack the seeds open.) Add this mixture to a blender, along with the ginger, garlic, onions, lemon juice and olive oil. Pulse for a few seconds until you get a smooth paste. Transfer this marinade into a large mixing bowl containing the chunks of lamb. Coat the lamb evenly with the marinade, cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours.
When ready to grill, thread lamb onto skewers. Cook on a charcoal or gas grill at high heat, rotating the skewers every 2 to 3 minutes, until the lamb is cooked to the desired level — I prefer medium-rare, about 10-12 minutes total. Once cooked, place the skewers on a tray and allow to rest covered with foil. Brush each side of the tomato with olive oil and grill on each side for about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Before serving, garnish the hot lamb kebabs with cilantro and a little freshly squeezed lemon juice. Serve with grilled tomatoes and cucumber raita.