This kebab is a speciality from Gaziantep – a city close to Syrian-Turkish-Border. There are many rumors afloat about this delicious and light creation. One rumor has it that this dish is created by a cook named “Ali Nazik” who worked in a kebab house in Gaziantep, others say the name is from Arabic „a la nazik“ meaning „fine food“. Another rumour is that it was first served to Sultan Selim in 16th century.
Thus to tell a proper story I made up the following:
After the Battle of Marj Dabig in 1516 the Ottoman Empire captured Gaziantep. It was the period of Sultan Selim I. He had his army fighting against Persia and was on his way to Syria when he passed Gaziantep. Tired of the battles Sultan Selim stayed in Gaziantep for a while, before he left for Syria. Then one day his escort packed and planed the journey as usual. Early in the morning most of the tents and the cooks were sent in beforehand to prepare everything to the Sultans desire at the appointed resting place for the next night. But it was an extraordinary hot day and the Sultan was tired and exhausted very soon. They just left the city borders when Sultan Selim ordered to stop and have a rest and a light meal. They had refreshments and sweets on their disposal, but nothing to prepare the Sultan even a light meal. While a team built up the tent, set the lights, laid beautiful carpets out and draped colourful silks in the tent, one of the officers sent an escort to the mayor of Gaziantep and requested a cook to prepare a light meal for his majesty. The mayor accompanied them to his best cook in the city. No surprise his name was Ali. The escort waked him up from his siesta and got him into a carriage. Ali was so sleepy that he only caught he had to prepare a light meal for a person of importance! So he managed to grab a few ingredients and tools, before jumping into the carriage. It was an exceptionally hot day and he decided to make something light and fresh using vegetables and yogurt. He roasted aubergines on fire, peeled and mashed those and stirred in thick yogurt – needless to say that he used his own special homemade thick and creamy yogurt from buffalo milk. Then he fried roughly minced meat of lamb and added lots of onions, peppers, tomatoes and fresh herbs. He first made a nest of aubergine-yogurt-puree on a serving plate and arranged the hot meat-vegetables-mix on top of it. To give the dish an extravagant touch he spooned melted and spiced butter all over the kebab.
The Sultan was so delighted by this delicious light dish that he enjoyed it without interruption. Afterwards he asked: „Who made this „a la nazik“ dish?“ But the servant only filtered to hear „ … this „Ali Nazik“ dish?“ „Yes your majesty” the servant said „Ali is the best kebab cook in Gaziantep I hear.”
Thus a name for this delicious dish was created – “Ali Nazik Kebab”- and it remained so for centuries.
I don’t like to peel aubergines when they are barbecued or baked in oven and still hot, so I peel and slice them in beforehand and bake them in an aluminium foil package with shallots, garlic, olive oil and herbs. Later I discard the herbs and make a puree of aubergines, shallots and garlic using a food processor. Thus the aubergines get an aromatic taste.
Ali Nazik Kebab
For the kebab:
300 g minced meat of lamb or mixed 1/2 lamb and 1/2 beef
2 onions, finely diced
each 1 red, yellow and green pepper, finely diced
3 tomatoes, peeled and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 tsp tomato puree (domates salçası)
1 tsp pepper puree (biber salçası), optional
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp chili flakes (pul biber) or cayenne pepper, optional
1 tbsp fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
For the aubergine puree:
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
6-8 small shallots, peeled
each 4-6 thyme and parsley stalks
2-3 tbsp olive oil
500 g thick Turkish yogurt or Greek style yogurt
aluminium foil for baking
For the spiced butter: (optional)
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp paprika
chili flakes to sprinkle, optional
- For the aubergine puree: Peel aubergines and slice them. Put aubergines in a big bowl, add 2-3 tsp salt and cover with cold water. Let the aubergines rest for 20 minutes. Then sieve and dry with a kitchen towel.
Preheat the oven to 230ºC. Now to bake the aubergines, we make two foil baskets. First brush olive oil on aluminium foil (each about 20×30 cm) then add aubergines, shallots and garlic cloves and herbs, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper and olive oil. Tightly close the aluminium foil baskets and bake in the preheated oven about 20 minutes until the aubergines are soft.
Discard the herbs, put the soft aubergines, shallots and garlic (optional) in a food processor and make a fine puree. Transfer aubergine puree into a bowl and stir in yogurt and mix well. Add salt, freshly ground black pepper to taste. Set aside.
- For the kebab: Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add minced meat and fry for a few minutes. Take meat out on a plate. Now add onions into the same pan and saute until translucent. Add garlic and peppers and saute for a couple of minutes. Stir in the meat and mix well. Add tomato and pepper puree, thyme and paprika. Saute for a minute then add the tomatoes. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. (If necessary add about 100 ml warm water and bring to a boil first.) Just before serving add parsley and mix well.
- Melt butter in a small pan. Add paprika and remove immediately from heat.
- To serve this dish place first a few spoons of aubergine puree on a dinner plate and arrange the meat-mix over it. At last spoon spiced butter over the kebab. Serve with rice or Turkish bread and mixed salad. Afiyet olsun!