Hole-in-the-wall beef skewers

Wander through the medina of Tripoli and you will soon smell the sizzle of beef kebabs wafting through the air as little hole-in-the-wall stalls grill up a storm throughout the day. To get the meat super succulent you need to have a high fat content – I suggest at least 20 per cent fat.

These kebabs are simple to make and cook fast on a barbecue. Rather than serve them in a wrap, I like to make these a little different, plating them up on a slick of hummus – either buy your favourite or make a batch – and then top the meat with a really zesty mix of red onion, sumac and parsley.

beef skewers
Nassima Rothacker



1 red onion, finely sliced
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon sumac
a small handful of finely chopped parsley leaves
sea salt


450g minced beef with
20 per cent fat
1/2 onion, grated
1/2 teaspoon allspice
a small handful of finely chopped parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon Lebanese 7 spice or baharat
1 1/2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper flakes
25g toasted pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, crushed


300g hummus

1. Put the sliced onion into a bowl and add the lemon juice and a good pinch of salt. Mix well and leave to macerate for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the grill or barbecue to high. Put all the ingredients for the kebabs into a large mixing bowl with a good pinch of salt and mix well. Thread the meat onto flat skewers (these prevent the meat from turning when you flip them over on the barbecue) so you have a sausage shape. You should be able to make eight kebabs. Cook for 3–4 minutes on each side until charred and juicy.

3. Add the sumac and parsley to the macerated onions and mix well.

4. To serve, spread the hummus onto a serving dish. Lay the kebabs on top and pile on the onions. Serve immediately with flatbreads.

Saffron in the Souks by John Gregory-Smith is published by Kyle Books, £25