I’ll always be a fan of a really good veggie burger but when it’s hot outside and I’m feeling too lazy to cook, lettuce wraps with something a little bit different inside are the like a dream. I love using lettuce to wrap up spicy noodles, quinoa salad, tandoori tofu and these totally delicious Dhai Ke Kebabs.
These kebabs are made with thick, creamy yogurt that’s been hung for 24 hours, paneer, fresh mint, coriander, ginger and chilli – hardly health food but when a lettuce-wrapped kebab with crunchy veggies and sweet onion sauce tastes this fresh, you won’t care. I promise.
The Dhai Ke Kebabs themselves have a golden, crunchy exterior from a combination of breadcrumbs and semolina – the audible ‘crunch’ when you bite into it is SO satisfying. The inside is soft, surprisingly light and lemony with the freshness of mint, coriander and a touch of ginger. The delicate combo of flavours will dance on your palate as if you were partaking in a groom’s dhol procession at an Indian wedding, midsummer.
Inspired by the rich, spicy Mughlai feasts of kings and queens in Medieval India, this alternative take on Dhai Ke Kebabs is definitely a far cry from how they would have been eaten in ornate palaces. They would have probably made up part of a larger feast of biryani, slow-cooked curries laden with dried fruits and cream and fluffy tandoor-cooked bread – all served on a lavish dining table decked with the finest gold dinnerware.
Well I’m no Mughlai rani.
While the essence of indulgence remains with the Dhai Ke Kebabs, the rest of the dish is light, fresh, crunchy and colourful. Perfect for modern-day feasting and our busy lifestyles.
This is one of those dishes that was made for sharing. Crown your table with all the different components; Dhai Ke Kebabs, lettuce leaves, sliced carrots, cucumbers, sweet onion drizzle, toasted cashews, pomegranate, mint leaves, coriander and a few bottles of cold beer and you’re good to go. Assemble as you eat. That way, you can add more or less of whatever you like. The only problem you might have is fitting everything into the one lettuce wrap.
Word of advice… Eat with your hands – cutlery will only slow you down.
This is one of the most mouth watering dishes you can cook when you’re craving something fresh, inspired and just that little bit different from the usual veggie burgers or falafel.
For the Dhai Ke Kebabs:
350g hung yoghurt (try using Greek yoghurt, hung in a cheesecloth for 24 hours)
220g crumbled paneer
100g fresh breadcrumbs
4 fresh chillies, chopped finely
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp dry-roasted chickpeas, ground (daria)
1 tsp cracked black pepper
½ tsp ground coriander seeds
Juice ½ lemon
Salt to taste
For the kebab coating:
100g fresh breadcrumbs
30g coarse semolina
Oil to deep fry
2 heads Cos lettuce, leaves separated
1 cucumber, sliced finely
4 carrots, sliced finely
Handful toasted cashews
For the sweet onion drizzle:
180g brown sugar
80ml apple cider vinegar
1 red onion, chopped finely
2 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp sesame oil
2 red chillies
1 tsp English mustard
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
½ tsp salt
2 tsp cornflour dissolved in 2 tbsp cold water
1. First, make the sweet onion drizzle. Combine all the ingredients except the fennel seeds and cornflour in a pan. Stir to combine and bring to the boil. Simmer, stirring often for 20 minutes until slightly thick and syrupy. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to the head and stir in the ground fennel seeds and cornflour. Stir until thick, adding a little bit of water if necessary. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. You should have a sticky-sweet and spicy sauce.
2. To make the kebabs, combine all the ingredients apart from the coating ingredients in a large bowl and combine. You should have a dough-like consistency. Knead it for a minute.
3. Make golf ball-sized balls and shape the kebabs as you wish – you can do little slider-type tikki shapes or longer kofta-style kebabs. I did both just to mix it up a bit. Place onto baking sheets.
4. Combine the breadcrumbs and semolina for the coating. Roll each kebab into the coating and arrange on the baking tray. Once you’ve done them all, briefly dip each one into a bowl of milk and back into the coating mix. This will ensure your coating is substantial for a crispy outside.
5. Arrange each one on a baking tray and place in the freezer for 20 minutes.
6. Fill a pan with enough oil to deep fry the kebabs. Heat to 160C. You could bake them with a spray of oil but they won’t be as crispy, evenly brown or delicious. Deep fry them – I promise you it’s worth it.
7. Remove the kebabs from the freezer and fry three or four at a time, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Overcrowding the pan will result in the temperature of the oil dropping. Nobody wants greasy kebabs.
8. Fry until golden all over. Drain the kebabs on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. You could also freeze them for baking later.
9. Place all the filling ingredients on a platter and serve in the middle of the table, allowing everybody to dig in and build their own lettuce wraps.
Enjoy watching everyone fight over the Dhai Ke Kebabs.