Immediate Venture Bitcore Surge

5
May

It was a pretty gruesome, although irresistible shop sign: a camel’s head, dripping blood and hanging from a hook right on the street outside a butcher shop. And I almost knocked into it — I did stroke another less bloody head later. I had never seen anything like it before. I went in to ask why the head was hanging outside, and the butcher explained it was to show that he specialised in camel meat. I had never tasted camel meat before and here was my chance. Most popular Syrian butchers — I was in Midan, a popular food shopping area in Damascus — have a charcoal grill inside their stall/shop with a counter or a couple of  tables to serve grilled meat to passing diners.

camels-head.jpg

I was with my mother and if you knew her, you would understand why it was difficult for me to convince her to sit at the butcher’s table while he cooked my camel kebabs. Here is a picture of her at the end of a wonderful meal in B’charreh, Lebanon where we feasted on goat’s kibbeh nayeh (raw kibbeh). It should explain why street food is not quite her thing.

mme-helou-blog.jpg

In any case, I insisted and being the good mother she is, she relented and followed me into the shop. I ordered my kebabs (also some for my mother despite her protestations) thinking he was going to cut the meat in pieces and thread them onto skewers; but when I saw the butcher starting to mince the meat, I asked him why. His answer was that this was what I had ordered –  kebab or kabab in Syria means minced meat, either en brochettes, or shaped into balls and stewed in different sauces with either fruit or vegetables. He added that camel meat was too tough to grill in pieces. So, I let him mince the meat, shape it around the skewers and grill it for us. By then, my mother had relaxed and was happy to share my kebabs. And I must say, the meat was not that much different from lamb, a little drier perhaps and gamier.

Much later I learned from Ahmed, my wonderful driver in Aleppo, that all good Muslims must eat camel meat at least once a year. Why? Because camels, unlike most animals, are faithful. They don’t allow their camel wives to be seduced by other camels! Didn’t double check on that but I am prepared to believe him. Here are a few more pics, the one below and the last taken by Ben who was with me in Damascus on another trip and whose pictures are featured in the Food & Wine article.

camel-me.jpgPhoto © Ben Stechschulte.

The following photographs are mine, taken in the souks of Aleppo, very near Bab Antaki. The guy talking to the butcher is discussing which cut to buy and the guy in the background is manning the charcoal grill; and the photographs on the board behind him are all of camels when they were alive.

camel-butcher-1.jpg camel-butcher-2.jpg

Here is a recipe for the kebabs, that is if you can get camel meat. If not, you can always use minced lamb but be sure to choose the cut and then ask your butcher to mince it for you. Ready mince tends to be too fatty. The Syrian butcher’s seasoning consisted simply of salt and pepper but my recipe below is a little fancier. In fact, it is for Lebanese kefta — we call it kefta, they call it kebabs. Serves 4

camel-kebabs1.jpg
Photo © Ben Stechschulte.

2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 1/4 pound ground lamb, from the shoulder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice (or 7-spice mixture)
salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 medium pita breads

1 – Put the onion and parsley in a blender and process until finely chopped. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add the ground meat and seasonings and mix with you hands until well blended. Pinch a little off and sear in a hot pan to taste. Adjust the seasoning if necessary then divide the meat into 12 equal portions.

2 – Pre-heat the broiler to high or start a charcoal fire.

3 – Roll each portion of meat into a ball. Put one in the palm of your hand, take a long skewer, preferably a flat one as the meat will hold better onto it, and start wrapping the meat around the skewer, squeezing it upwards, then downwards to bind it around the skewer in the shape of a long sausage. Taper the ends and place on a rack ready to grill or broil. Do the rest of the meat in the same way.

4 – Cook the meat for 2-3 minutes on each side or until the meat is done to your liking. Serve hot with pita bread.

@ Anissa Helou, from Mediterranean Street Food

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Tagged : 20


There is 20 comments on this post


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    As a vegetarian, I was gruesomely interested in this post…never seen a camels head in a butchers before!


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    well, you wouldn’t in England. perhaps in Australia where they breed them!


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I can’t wait to meet your Mother!


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    you’ll like her. she’s totally lovely, and a fabulous cook.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Interesting camel advertising, yikes. In Israel there is a fellow who breeds camels for milk and for making ice cream but because it isn’t kosher it has not become popular here. That would be great -camel kebab and camel ice cream for desert.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Great piece Anissa. And you’re so right, your mother does not look like a prime street food candidate.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Thanks Rachel. Glad you like it. My mother is definitely not a prime candidate for street food but she’s a good sport when i push her.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Sarah, i like the idea of camel ice cream. Have you ever tasted camel milk? I haven’t yet but will look out for some when I am in Syria.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Anissa, loved the blog. Excellent photos, descriptions, recipies & comments. Loved your mom, now I see where you got your great style & elegance.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I never saw a camel butcher in the Middle East, but I have found some medieval recipes for camel. Some are actually for the camel’s hump, which appears to require long braising, because it’s mostly gristle. Here’s a recipe from the 10th-century book Kitab al-Tabikh:

    Janb mubazzar of Yahya b. Khalid al-Barmaki

    Take the side of a fat camel and clean it and remove its spinal column, glands, isfîdhaj [? evidently a Persian word meaning something white], liver, spleen and kidneys, if they are present. Let it sit overnight in vinegar, and throw on it a handful of salt, two of dried spices, viz. ground coriander, cumin, pepper and cinnamon.
    Early in the morning, moisten it with vinegar or vinegar and spices or [obscure passage], and hang in the tannûr oven, God willing.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    This is amazing Charles. Thanks. I am sure lots of people will be interested to read this. Must try and find out if I can taste some camel’s hump on my next trip to Syria.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    Quelle rencontre avec cette de tete de chameau! Texte bien ecrit comme d’habitude et les photos sont superbes! Merci de nous faire partager tes passions…


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    merci Lila pour les compliments. aujuourd’hui j’ai vu des chameaux comme le mien mais vivant, a Palmyre!


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I drank camel milk in the Saudi desert, straight (well almost) from the animal, proffered in a big bowl. It had a thick froth on top and despite my initial hesitation I found it to be delicious and rather rich. My encounter with camel meat was at a Christmas day feast in the same area of desert, where the Saudi hosts had laid on a large tent with a buffet which included a roast camel and a roast lamb, along with a spread of the ubiquitous Lebanese mezze and maybe a few of the local dishes, such as kabsa and savoury wheat “porridges”. The camel was tasty but definitely on the tooth-challenging side so I took refuge in the lamb.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I meant also to say that the herd of camels was very varied in terms of eg origins, colour and woolliness, and the Saudi herder was proud of his Syrian camels. By the way Time magazine this week has an article on the healthiness of kangaroo meat and how it is “jumping off shelves” in Australia. I gather from other sources that Australia’s population of wild camels is increasingly used as a source of healthy meat – though meat from older animals needs to be marinated (as in the old ‘got the hump’ recipe above).


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    this is very interesting Susannah. Just saw a camel hump hanging at a butcher in Aleppo. didn’t look very appetising.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    I am from Australia and have many Khaliji friends here. They swear by camel milk, well known also for its aphrodisiac properties amongst the Khaliji. There is also a special word in Arabic for the bubbles in camel milk – this was the most interesting fact I’ve learnt.

    My Khaliji friends have told me there are places where I can get my hands on camel meat here in Melbourne. I’ve thus far been entirely unwilling to try it – though you’ve almost tempted me here (but not with the photographic evidence of the slaughter hah).


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    ha ha… you should try it though. and pasteurized camel milk is very good. apparently it can make you really sick if you drink it straight out of the lady camel. i sipped v fresh camel milk in dubai but very little. let me know how you like the meat once you’ve tried it.


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    One of my favourite Lebanese foods was baked spleens stuffed with green coriander, garlic and hot peppers. Living in London and not sure how to make them myself it is one of themany delights I miss from the Lebanon. Any one have a recipe for that?


  • Warning: Undefined array key 36 in /data/40/0/131/109/783598/user/802494/htdocs/anissahelou/wp-content/themes/Anissa/functions.php on line 377

    you can find a recipe for t’hal (spleen) in my offal book, being reissued on 1 June 🙂

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