Lamb Kebabs with Caramelized Onions

For this 1st post of 2012, how about we look back at the Christmas Eve dinner that was served at our house? Since we were receiving my elderly father for Christmas lunch per say, and since the man loves his turkey, I thought we might shake things up on Christmas Eve instead, with an extravaganza of Turkish mezes inspired by a new Québec cookbook, Su. With my son’s godmother and BFF in attendance, a break with tradition seemed the right way to go.

All chefs will tell you:to avoid “Hostess Stress”, cook and serve dishes you know and are comfortable preparing. So of course, contradictory as ever, all dishes served as part of our special Turkish spread were new to me, although I am quite familiar with Lebanese meze, so not really in newbie territory. For dessert, never my forte, I happily settled on 100% decadent baklavas from one of my favourite Montreal groceries, Adonis. That it was very recently sold to Metro supermarkets has been a source of grave concern among Montreal foodies.

The menu

In true Turkish fashion, all dishes were served at once in a joyous foodie celebration, mixing “main dishes” with multiple sides. For the occasion, I picked the following recipes from my new Su cookbook:

• Miniature lamb kebabs (page 112)
• Caramelized onions (page 33)
• Octopus salad (page 106)
• Creamy celeriac and walnut meze (page 44)
• Roast red pepper and walnut meze (page 47)
• Tomato, cucumber and red pepper salad (page 58)

I extended the celebration spread with a platter of roasted asparagus and eggplant, as well as a watermelon and sheep feta salad. With vegetables in multiple disguises, and proteins in more of a supporting role, this menu proved a welcome idea to launch the holiday festivities and avoid burdening everybody’s digestion from the get go. Multiple choices made this a celebration but every recipe here is perfectly suited to everyday meals.

Our Christmas Eve table pretty much looked like this. I wanted red votive lights, maybe a Turkish tablecloth, but ran out of time as usual. All food, minimal deco, c’est moi… (Photos: Nadyne Paradis)

For the wine service, we served 2 of my favourite bubblies (which I presented here): Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve champagne and Nivole, a spiffy Moscato d’Asti that our whole family loves. Yep, that includes the 5 year old who had his own pint-sized champagne flute to go…

So here’s a taste of our year-end celebrations, with a few recipes adapted from the book to be featured in this and following posts. Many are perfectly suited to your next family dinner, trust me.

Note : Su recipes take for granted that you will be serving multiple mezes for a meal. No “main entrée” will feed a whole family. I followed the recipe to a “t”, removing nerves, fat and all. It was delicious and fastidious. I would cut corners next time and see what gives. Guests were invited to savour the kebabs with sides or to slide them into minipitas, then smother them in caramelized onions. Pure joy. We own an old Tefal indoor minibarbecue that looks awful but does the job. The pleasure of eating roast meats in winter cannot be stressed enough. A grilling pan would do just as well.

Excerpted from:


  • 1. Caramelized Onions ••• In a large pan, heat oil, add onion and salt, then reduce heat and let onions cook until they start to turn soft and golden. You’ll need to stir often.
  • 2. In a large pan, heat oil, add onion and salt, then reduce heat and let onions cook until they start to turn soft and golden. You’ll need to stir often.
  • 3. Add sugar and lemon juice, then caramelize thoroughly until onions are a deep brown but not burnt (should take about 10 minutes, be patient).
  • 4. Lamb Kebabs ••• Cut lamb into 1 cm (1/2 in) cubes, removing nerves, fat and connective tissue. Reserve fat.
  • 5. In a non-reactive bowl, glass or melamine, combine meat, oil and seasonings. Cover and chill 12-24h.
  • 6. Slide a piece of fat at the bottom of each wooden brochettes, then 3-4 cubes of meat. Do not overcrowd. Grill on a medium-heat barbecue. Quick cooking is best to produce tender, pink meat. Serve with caramelized onions and pita bread.