Food Talk
Meatless temptation

Vegetarian kebab on the seekh seldom gets the pride of place in menus as does its non-vegetarian counterpart, writes Pushpesh Pant

seekh kebab The seekh kebab as much a feast for the eyes as a temptation for the palate is one of the most elegant items on a barbeque. The shashlik, to which the seekh is believed to be related, is quite popular in the West and is served with a flourish on shining skewers and is most seductive to say the least.

The shared descent from the Turkish seesh though is disputed. Some food historians insist that the Indians have always had their own version in the Rajasthani shule. The word translates as a stake, a sharp tipped thorn quite apt for the skewer. It is possible that hunters on the sub-continent discovered the joys of pit roasting by impaling morsels of meat on a twig or a spear or arrow independently.

What cannot be denied is that whoever may claim the priority of invention it is in India that the seekh reached sublime heights. The fabulous kakori named after a small sleepy town near Lucknow has a melt in the mouth quality that is unmatched. Legend has it that the recipe for gilawat was developed for the dining pleasure of the local nawabs, who had lost their teeth but not appetite. More serious scholars speculate that the kebab was considerate to the aged pilgrims who visited the Sufi saints tomb in the town.

Its true beauty is unveiled over the glowing embers of a charcoal grill- fuelled by imli ki lakri; the tandoor, alas, does not let anyone peep behind its clay curtain. We have to be content with the glass-fronted show kitchens providing a garish glimpse of the marinade dripping, shockingly coloured (artificially) chunks of meat far from attractive. These offerings can tempt only the most famished carnivore.

We were delighted to encounter a very satisfying subz sheekh at Punjabi by Nature, an eatery in Vasant Lok in New Delhi. The vegetarians have long had to be content with the aloo or palak tikki miming the shami or a tikka of paneer valiantly trying to fight for equal rights the murgh malai cube. It is surprising that the vegetarian kebab on the skewer is seldom given the pride of place in menus and housewives/house husbands give it a miss, imagining quite incorrectly that it is a bother to cook at home. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You can have as much variety in a veg seekh as in a non-veg skewer.



Subz Seekh

Ingredients

Arbi (colocasia) 500gm
Pomegranate seed
(powdered) 1 tsp
Paneer (grated) 150 gm
Khoya (grated) 125 gm
Fresh mint leaves (chopped) 2 tbsp
Ginger (finely chopped) 1 inch
Green chillies (deseeded
& chopped) 2 tsp
Small bell pepper red
(diced) one
A generous pinch of kasoori methi (crushed)
Salt to taste 

Potli (Aromatic) Masala
Cloves eight
Black cardamom two 
Green cardamom four 
Nutmeg  

The masala 
Amchoor/dried raw mango
powder 5 tsp 
Green cardamom powder tsp
Black pepper (freshly
roasted & coarsely ground) 1 tsp
Mace powder tsp
Cumin powder 1 tsp
Black rock 1 tsp
Salt to taste

Method

Boil water in a pan and put the arbi pieces in it with the aromatic spices in the potli and boil until soft. Peel when cool, and mash. Discard the potli.

Put all ingredients listed for the seekh in a bowl, add the masala, mash to blend well and divide into equal portions, then roll into balls. 

Spread these balls along the length of the skewers with a moist hand flattening the balls into a sausage-like shape making each kebab about four inch long.

Separate the kebab by about two inches. Roast over a charcoal grill, turning gently to cook evenly, until golden brown.

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