Originating in the coastal countries of the eastern Mediterranean area, kebab is a versatile dish made by roasting and grilling pieces of meat, fish, and vegetables, over a skewer or a spit. The dish quickly spread in popularity and consumption throughout the nations of the Middle East, and then central Asia. The kebab traces its historic roots to before the 17th century B.C., and even the ancient Greek poet Homer mentions an erstwhile archaic dish resembling the same, and enjoyed all over his country in his works. However, a Turkish script by Kyssa-i Yusuf which dates back to around 1377, first properly mentions the culinary concept of the word, which is derived from the Persian language, and literally means “fry”, and sometimes “fry and burn”. Legend has it that the kebab was invented by medieval Persian soldiers who grilled meat on their swords over open-air fires in the battlefield. It quickly gained favour of both the classes and the masses, being served as the royal fare in various Islamic states over the ages, and as a much sought after and easily accessible snack or main course dish for many commoners, and the trend continues even today.

Although lamb is the traditional choice of meat for making the kebab, there are many variants available in different meats and vegetables all over India due to religious constraints and direct or indirect dietary restrictions. Indian kebabs, whether they are vegetarian or non-vegetarian, have a unique and popular flavour of their own, owing to the wide spectrum of masalas (spices) and herbs native to the subcontinent. Apart from the numerous Indian innovations in the art of kebab making, the sheesh, shammi, tikka, and shawarma, original types of kebabs are also available everywhere, and can be found easily in small roadside eating joints as well as in top notch restaurants and hotels. The cities of Lucknow and Hyderabad are famous all over the country, owing to their thousands of decades-old, local eateries and food establishments which sell different types of primarily meat kebabs, ranging from tunday to kalmi and tangdi to reshmi, and have thus contributed a lot to culture, food, tourism, and economy.

While you can get non-vegetarian kebabs from anywhere, the vegetarian types are a rarity to find outside one’s house, and they are generally overpriced in the restaurants they are available in. Vegetarian kebabs can be easily made at home, with simple ingredients, and less elaborate methods than their non-vegetarian counterparts. This article will provide you with three novel recipes, all made wonderfully by my favourite chef in the world, my grandmother, for these lesser known variants, namely, shalgam ke kebab, kela chane kebab, and chukandar ke kebab.

 

Shalgam ke Kebab (serves 4-6 people)

Ingredients needed:

  • 7-8 bulbs of turnips
  • 2 tablespoons of roasted besan (gram flour)
  • Finely chopped onions
  • Finely shredded coriander, chilli, and ginger
  • 2 medium sized boiled potatoes
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 small teaspoon of garam masala powder
  • Vegetable oil

Steps required:

  • Thoroughly wash the turnip bulbs, and then carefully peel their outer skins off.
  • Put the skinned turnips in a pressure cooker and steam thoroughly.
  • Once the turnips cool down, mash them and drain out the excess water.
  • Mash the boiled potatoes and mix them with the turnips. Add coriander, chilli, ginger, and onion to the mixture and be careful to make it consistent with dough.
  • Add garam masala and salt accordingly.
  • Make small balls of the prepared dough and flatten it into small cutlets or flattened disc shaped portions.
  • Shallow fry on a tawa (pan) until the kebabs are thoroughly cooked and are a rich golden-brown in colour.
  • Top with sprigs of coriander and rings of onion. Serve hot, with a chutney of your choice.

 

Kela Chane ke Kebab (serves 4-6 people)

Ingredients needed:

  • 5 clean green unripe bananas
  • 1 bowl of soaked chana dal (gram beans)
  • Finely chopped onions
  • Finely shredded coriander, chilli, and ginger
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 small teaspoon of garam masala powder
  • Vegetable oil

Steps required:

  • Make sure to wash the bananas thoroughly with fresh water before beginning. Once they are clean, steam them in a pressure cooker with their skins intact.
  • Steam the dal separately to a soft consistency.
  • Once both ingredients cool down, peel the bananas, and mash together with the dal to make a dough.
  • Add garam masala and salt. You can also add other spices such as red chilli powder if you prefer.
  • Shallow fry on a pan.
  • Garnish with sprigs of coriander, and serve with onions and chutney.

 

Chukandar ke kebab (serves 4-6 people)

Ingredients needed:

  • 7-8 beetroots
  • 2 tablespoons of roasted besan (gram flour)
  • 2 boiled potatoes
  • 250 grams of paneer
  • A few whole clean leaves of cabbage
  • Finely chopped onions
  • Finely shredded coriander, chilli, and ginger
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 small teaspoon of garam masala powder
  • Vegetable oil

Steps required:

  • Steam the beetroots thoroughly after cleaning them.
  • Mash the beetroots to a dough-like consistency. If necessary, add a little bit of boiled potatoes as well. Add roasted besan to this mix.
  • In a separate bowl, mash potatoes and mix them with paneer chunks.
  • Add coriander, chilli, ginger, and onion to the beetroot dough.
  • Make miniature balls of the paneer and potato mix after adding salt and garam masala to it.
  • Wrap them in a leaf of cabbage.
  • Encase this in an even layer of beetroot dough. Make it firm with more besan if required.
  • Shallow fry on a pan until the kebabs are thoroughly cooked.
  • Cut the kebabs open from the centre, top with coriander, and serve hot with chutney.