Silk Road: Charcoal-Grilled Lamb & potatoes

Whether the New World Barbecue or the Silk Road claypit-fire, there is something primal, appealing and heart-warming about grilling.

Inspired by the Armenian khorovats, I give here an absolutely delicious, finger-licking version. In Yerevan, my Armenian friend told me that they don’t use any flavorings to appreciate the natural flavors of meat. Sorry, I deviated. I use an allium-flavoring (onion, garlic) and also a tenderizing element (citric acid).

Special tools:

Metal skewers; bamboo skewers for the vegetables; charcoal grill, oven to roast the vegetables.


  • Meat:
    • 2 lbs (deboned) butterflied leg of lamb cut into chunks (+ 2 lamb chops)
    • Liquify in a blender-  1 large onion +  5-6 cloves of garlic + 1 tsp extra hot chilli powder + black pepper + 1 tsp citric acid [both a tenderizer and gives an acidic tang] + salt to taste
  • Vegetables:
    • 1 lb fingerling potatoes, skewered whole, brushed with some oil
    • Dressing: salt + pepper + finely chopped herbs (cilantro, mint) + juice of half a lemon


Marinade the meat overnight. When ready to grill, skewer the chunks and grill, rotating the skewers every now and then, basting with the marinade, till done. Pull the meat off the skewers with Lavash bread (ala Armenian) and serve the meat on the platter lined with the homemade Lavash.

Roast the potatoes in the oven at 400 F for about 30 minutes (turning half way through). When done, pull off the skewers and lightly dress the potatoes to serve.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Other vegetables to grill: onions, tomatoes, Brussel sprouts, eggplant, zucchini etc. I skimped here due to some constraints.
    I used bamboo skewers for the vegetables- remember to soak them for at least one hour, so that the dry skewer does not spontaneously ignite.
  2. The grilled chunks are also known by other names: boti/shish kebab (Arab/Indian subcontinent) or shashlik (Russian/Caucasus) or souvlaki (Greek).
  3. The citric acid (food-grade) tenderizes the meat and makes the texture absolutely pleasant. Not chewy at all. Another classic tenderizer is green papaya (usually pulverized into a paste for the marinade).
    Make sure to marinade the meat for at least one hour or overnight if possible.
  4. If you don’t have the means for an open fire charcoal grill, you can broil in your oven with equally delicious result.
  5. I grill the potatoes in the oven, since I found the open-fire grilled potatoes burn before cooking. You can also wrap them in alumunium foil and place on the grill. But I prefer the former method.
  6. The 2 lbs of meat required 4 skewers (each about 17-18 inches long).

Black Lime Chicken Skewers: Finger-licking chicken skewers inspired by Ottolenghi’s Test Kitchen book.
Marinade 1.5 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch cubes: 3 tbsp black lime powder + 2 tsp lemon zest & 2 1/2 tbsp juice from 2 lemons + 1 tbsp cumin powder + 6 garlic cloves minced + 2 tbsp olive oil + black pepper or urfa biber + salt
Marinade for about 1 hour and the grill till done. Serve with pickled onions (1 thinly sliced red onion in 2 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar+ 1 1/2 tsp sumac), flat bread or lettuce leaves and farro grain.

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