Cherry Kebab

Aleppian cooking differs significantly from that of Damascus and the rest of Syria. Aleppian food is far more exotic and richly flavored. Historically Aleppo was a flourishing commercial centre and with its location on the Silk Road ingredients, spices and indeed influences came from all over the world. Aleppian food contains more spices compared to the Damascene salt and pepper. In addition it shows signs of influence from nearby Turkey, Iraq and Persia and some distant land as far away as India. One of the Aleppian cuisine characteristics is the use of fruits in main dishes which is almost unheard of elsewhere in Syria or the rest of The Levant.

Cherry Kebab (Kebab Karaz in Arabic), Aleppo's most famous dish symbolise everything that is unique about cooking is that ancient city. First of all, it is a kebab and Aleppo is the kebab capital of the world. Then it is rich, strongly flavoured, sweet and sour and uses the glorious cherry fruit. In Syria a special kind of sour cherry is used for this dish. Trying to find sour cherries in London proved to be a nightmare so I abandoned the attempt and cooked with sweet cherries instead. This worked fine actually, the colour was not as purple dark as the original but fine tuning the amount of sugar, pomegranate molasses and lemon created a very authentic taste. Even my wife thought the cherry kebab I cooked tasted better than the one we eat in Syria! Baby you are so sweet!

Here is my recipe: for 2

Lean minced lamb 400g
Cherries 500g
Small onion
Pomegranate molasses 2tbs
Sugar 1-2 tea spoon
Pine nuts 30g
Ghee clarified butter 1tbs
Cinnamon 1 tea spoon
Khobez (Arabic flat bread) 2

Start by very finely chopping the onion (use food processor for easier and much better results). Mix the meat, onion, one tea spoon of salt and half a tea spoon black pepper. Check your seasoning by frying a small piece of the meat. Put the meat in the fridge for an hour. This will make it easier to shape the kebab. Take the chilled meat and form into one inch size balls with wet hands to give a smooth surface. Arrange on a tray and bake for 15-20 minutes under the grill or in a very hot oven. Don't over cook it as it will dry up. I like my kebab just done.

Add the pitted and halved cherries to a large heavy bottom pot with cup of water, pomegranate molasses, Cinnamon, squeeze of lemon and sugar. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20-30 minutes. Stir frequently squashing some of the cherries to release flavour and thicken the sauce.

Remove the meat balls when done and add the meat juices in the tray to the cherries for a richer sauce.

Fry the pine nuts in the Ghee butter till nice and golden. Remove most of the pine nuts to sprinkle on top of the finished dish. Add the remaining nuts with the Ghee butter to the cherry sauce and stir well.

When the sauce is ready add the meat balls and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Cut the Arabic bread into triangles and open the two layers of the bread. Arrange the bread in the serving plate with the pointy edges outwards and sprinkle with cinnamon. Spoon the kebab and sauce over the bread, sprinkle the pine nuts and serve immediately.

P.S. I started writing this post three weeks ago when I discovered that Anissa Helou the great food writer has published a recipe on her blog. I decided to publish my recipe a bit later. Today I discovered that Louise from Just Add Maple Syrup has published a recipe last week. Regardless I decided to publish mine. So now you have not one but three recipes for the same dish published within a month (it is cherry season so no surprises there). Chose whichever recipe you like or even mix and match but make sure you try this dish, you won't regret it!


chow and chatter said...

this looks and sounds delicious great flavours

Kano said...

it taste even better :)

BeadBag said...

This recipe sounds delicious - I love Middle Eastern food - it's always so tasty.

Kano said...

@ BeadBag

Welcome to my blog. If you love middle eastern food here you have it, lots of recipes to try.

Katia said...

I'm not only a cherry lover, I'm a total cherry addict, and I've heard about this dish several times before but have never had the chance to try it so now I know what I'm having next weekend :-)

Kano said...

Hi Katia
Try it before the cherry season finishes and let me know how it goes.

By the way, did you try to make Keshkeh?

Arlette said...

Marhaba Kano
I have Sour Cherry in North Bay, and Iam going to try your recipe with the original flavour and see.. My husband is a cherry addict like Katia and I am sure he will enjoy this meal..
thanks for sharing .

Kano said...

Hi Arlette
Please try it and let me know how it works. I guess you would need to add more sugar to get the sweet and sour taste if you are using sour cherries.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting. I wil try it tonite and see if we can revive our memories from our recent Aleppo visit. Can you recommend a Syrian/Aleppan restaurant in London btw?

Magnus, N7

Kano said...

Hi Magnus

Welcome to my blog. Try it and let me know how it goes.

Unfortunately all Syrian-owned restaurants in London call themselves Lebanese. The only two Syrian restaurants are:

Abu Zaad in Shepherd's Bush the place is good but nothing amazing. The best thing about it they serve home-style cooked food rather than the usual kebab/mezze combo.

Damascu Bite in Brick Lane and Shorditsh. I havn't tried this one so I can't comment

Anonymous said...

I made these for my ex-pat Aleppine inlaws and brought back many memories of Aleppo, the hospitality and friendlines that I received as a Brit. Many thanks, Carlo

Kano said...

I am so glad that you tried to cook it and it worked. Fills my heart with happiness.
Thank you for letting me know

Victor Sasson said...

Hi. Take a look at the entries on Aleppo in my food blog:

Kano said...

@victor sasson

Welcome to my blog. I will diffinitly take a look.

DubaiBride said...

I so need to try this. It's never cherry season in Dubai though!

Kano said...


You can use tinned cherries but it is not the same unfortunately.

DubaiBride said...

I've been aching to try this recipe but haven't done so cos cherries are so flippin expensive in Dubai. But today I thought what the hell, might as well... and it was simply gorgeous!!! I boiled the sauce for a long longer and guess became darker :) Thanks for such a delectable recipe...hubby and I loved every bite of it!

golden said...

I put this on my restaurant menu and it went down well with both emiraties and expats.

golden said...

@dubaibride. Check with spinneys or waitrose to see when they will have the cherry season :-)

Kano said...


Welcome to my blog.

I am delighted that my recipe is being served in a professional restaurant.

What is your restaurant name, if you don't mind me asking?

Colette (Coco) said...

Perhaps a Persian grocer may offer sour cherries (aka albaloo) during the summer??

Unknown said...

Used to love eating this in Armenian restaurant in Beirut! You can get dried sour cherries at the spice shop off Portobello road, W11 London. I'll start experimenting with mix of dried sour and fresh cherries. Thank you for the recipe!

Kano said...

@Juliette Karaman

Welcome to my blog.

Thank you for the tip regarding sour cherries. I will have to check it out.

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