Lamb leg steaks. Boneless and about an inch thick. Just picture that. Possibilities written all over them. Here’s an outstandingly good one. This spicy lamb kabobs recipe has plenty of penetrating chili and garlic. I reckon it’s the best way to treat a lamb steak.
You’ll be serving the lamb steaks as spicy lamb kabobs – cooked on bamboo skewers in a large, heavy skillet. Before that happens, the lamb gets cut into chunky inch-square cubes and treated to a simple, night-long marinade of chili and garlic. Only chili and garlic.
Next day, you’ll add lots of lemon juice, some cumin and coriander plus a drenching of olive oil. Then you’ll pack the cubed lamb tightly onto bamboo kabob sticks and cook them very hot and very fast over searing heat.
Here’s why they’re so good.
That overnight marinade infuses the cubed steaks with two flavors that lamb loves – chili and garlic. But it’s a long, slow dance. And it needs to run its course before anyone else cuts in.
Lemon juice, coriander, and cumin only appear in the marinade the following morning. And not for very long – maybe just 30 minutes or so. The lemon juice is there to add some more garlic and chili-induced tenderizing to the lamb – to further break down the muscularity of a leg steak – and to brighten its fairly fatty richness.
The cumin and coriander? Just accentuators of the lamb’s flavor. They’re like hidden accomplices – you’re scarcely going to notice them above the primary, obvious taste of the spicy lamb they highlight.
And this will seriously taste like lamb. Oh yeah. That unmistakable, slightly gamey, insistent taste of good grass-fed lamb.
Success in a skillet. For sure.
Why use a skillet, instead of a broiler / grill or an open fire: BBQ? The direct heat of the last two can be overly drying, pulling too much juice – and therefore flavor – out of the lamb.
A big skillet, liberally coated with smoking olive oil, allows you to get a fast, evenly concentrated heat that will rapidly char the outsides of the tightly-packed kabob-ed lamb – driving off very little of the meat’s internal tenderness.
And the same is true for the mixed vegetable kabobs that accompany the lamb. These get cooked on less of a ‘hot lava’ temperature and get basted with a salted combo of melted butter and chili-sauce. Once you get a good colour on their outsides, the top goes on the skillet and they just do the rest of their cooking under their own steam.
And one last reason for using a skillet. It’s perfect for heating the flat breads.
I use habanero peppers in the vegetable kabobs, and yes – that’s big heat. If you have concerns about that level of spiciness, feel free to substitute in red and green jalapeños or really any other chili pepper of your choice.
Spicy Lamb Kabobs Skillet-Seared With Mixed Vegetable Skewers
- Skillet (12-inch skillet to handle 10-inch bamboo skewers)
- 16 bamboo skewers / kabob sticks (10-inch long skewers)
The lamb and its marinade
- 2 pounds boneless lamb leg steaks about an inch thick, cut into inch-square cubes
- 4 peri-peri peppers finely chopped, seeds and all
- 6 cloves garlic peeled and very finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 lemons juiced
- 4 tablespoons olive oil Separated, two for the marinade and two for cooking
For the vegetables for the kabobs
For the vegetable basting sauce
- 3 1/2 ounces salted butter
- 1 teaspoon ground sea salt
- 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce choose your favorite
The flat breads
- 8 loaves fresh oblong breads about 12 inches long, 4 inches wide and ¼ inch thick. Ones with a slightly oily finish are ideal. (Pita breads are also fine. Served warm with maybe a good brushing of garlicky melted butter)
Prepping the lamb
- Put the cubed lamb into a bowl and add the peri-peri chili and garlic. Mix well – really well – and leave in the fridge overnight.
- About an hour before you want to eat, add the rest of the marinade ingredients to the lamb, except the olive oil. Mix thoroughly. The oil goes in later so that it doesn’t create a barrier between the lamb and the marinade. Leave the bowl out of the fridge so it can start coming up to room-ish temperature.
- While the lamb is sitting in the marinade, you can start on the vegetable kabobs and the sauce.
Prepping the vegetable skewers and their basting sauce
- Start each of the eight vegetable kabobs with a chunk of red onion. You’ll also finish each one with a similar chunk. The onion at either end helps hold the other veg in place on its skewer. Now load the skewer about 3/4 full with a snugly-fitted, alternating row of the remaining vegetables. Something like this. Onion first, then cherry tomato, bell pepper, garlic clove, habanero, tomato, bell pepper, garlic, habanero – finishing with the onion.
- Now load the skewer about 3/4 full with a snugly-fitted, alternating row of the remaining vegetables. Something like this. Onion first, then cherry tomato, bell pepper, garlic clove, habanero, tomato, bell pepper, garlic, habanero – finishing with the onion. Both the cherry tomato and whole garlic cloves are best skewered length ways – seems to stop them splitting apart.
- For the basting sauce, simply put all the ingredients in a small ceramic bowl and microwave until the butter melts. Then give it a good stir. Time to get back to the lamb.
Cooking the lamb kabobs
- First, add two tablespoons olive oil to the marinating lamb and mix thoroughly. Now thread cubes of lamb onto the skewers. Do this in such a way that the lamb’s neatly and tightly compressed on each skewer. You want to end up with each skewer having four pretty obvious sides along its length of lamb cubes. On a 10-inch skewer, you want eight inches of lamb cubes.
- Put a big skillet onto high heat and add two level tablespoons of olive oil. As it heats, put a serving dish into a very low oven – just hot enough to warm the dish so that you can happily hold it. The lamb’s going to rest there a bit once it’s done and while you cook the vegetable kabobs.
- Once the oil starts smoking, add the first four lamb kabobs. Keep the heat on high and after 90 seconds turn the kabobs onto the next of their four ‘sides’ for the same, searing treatment – six minutes in total. Take the skillet off the heat and put the kabobs onto your serving dish in that very low oven.
- Repeat the process for the next four kabobs, perhaps first adding a little more olive oil to the skillet.
Cooking the vegetable kabobs
- With the skillet set over a medium-high heat, add the first four kabobs. Using a teaspoon, baste them evenly with half of the sauce. They’re going to cook for about two minutes like this before you turn them and baste again with the remaining sauce. Cook for another two minutes, take the skillet off the heat and cover it. The kabobs will continue to cook in their own steam under the lid – but won’t char much more on their outsides.
- After two minutes, transfer them to the warming dish in the oven and turn the oven off.
Heating the flatbreads
- With the skillet over a medium high heat, add two flat breads. Turn them after two minutes and let them go for another two minutes. Done. Get them onto the dish in the oven and repeat the heating process for the remaining breads.