Kefta Kebabs for the Harem’s Picknick

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“We would arrive on the farm in mid-morning, equipped with dozens of carpets and light sofas and khanonns. Once the carpets had been unfolded, the light sofas would be spread out, the charcoal fires lit, and the shish kebabs grilled. The teakettles would sing along with the birds.”  from Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi

This is a wonderful memoir that explores the life of a young girl growing up in a harem in Fez, Morocco in the 1940s.  I have been astonished by many of the things that I’ve read in the text.  Mostly the idea, embarrassing to admit, that my only notion of a harem was that the term referred quite specifically to the many wives of one man.  In fact, it refers to the part of the home where women live.  In this case, each man of the house only has one wife, but all the women: wives, children, maiden and divorced aunts, and a stern, proud grandmother live together in the same women’s space.  This space does is not left behind with the walls.  The harem, as it is explained to young Fatima, is carried around in the minds of those who believe it is sacrosanct.  Thus, they take the harem with them to the movie theater and buy out a whole row of seats for the Mernissi women, and they also buy out the rows in front and behind so that no one may approach the harem.  In the above excerpt, the women are treated to rare moment of relative freedom in the open air: a picnic on an uncle’s farm that occurs just once a year.  Most days, they are not permitted to leave the walls of their home.

Kefta Kabob

1 lb ground beef

1lb ground lamb

1 yellow onion, finely minced 

About 1/4 cup each of fresh parsley and fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

2-3 tbsp mint, roughly chopped

Generous 1 tbsp each of cinnamon, cumin, and sweet paprika

1/4 tsp each of nutmeg and cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

 Pre-soak your skewers in water, if they are wooden (a few hours should do the trick).  Preheat the broiler.  Mix all the ingredients into the meat.  Shape the meat into sausages around the skewers.  Broil for about 10 minutes total, flipping at least once to brown on all sides.  Try not to overcook them as they will dry out.  

I am dumb.  I forgot the salt.  Never forget to salt your ground meat.  It dries out.  Still, with a little table-side salting, these made a tasty dinner served with some roasted pepper and tomato salad (look for that recipe tomorrow).  Of course, I agree with the women of the harem when I say, they would have been much better grilled outdoors rather than in the oven, but that’s city living for you.


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Filed under Books, Cooking and Reading, Food, Moroccan Food, Sausage

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