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Kabob Koobideh (Ground Meat Kebabs) + Chelo ba Tahdig #CooktheBooks

This time around, Simona of Briciole is the host for our bi-monthly book group Cook the Books. For our Feburary-March 2020 pick, she selected Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran*; you can read Simona's invitationhere.

On the Page
Mehran transports the reader to the fictional village of Ballinacroagh in western Ireland in 1986. After fleeing Iran during the revolution of 1979, Marjan, Bahar, and Layla - the three Aminpour sisters - are working feverishly to open their new café, the Babylon Café. They are intent on setting down roots and building a new life away from their turbulent homeland.

At only nine in the morning the kitchen was already pregnant to its capacity, every crevice and countertop overtaken by Marjan's gourmet creations. Marinating vegetables ('torshis' of mango, eggplant, and the regular seven-spice variety), packed to the briny brims of five-gallon see-through canisters, sat on the kitchen island. Large blue bowls were filled with salads (angelica lentil, tomato, cucumber and mint, and Persian fried chicken), 'dolmeh,' and dips (cheese and walnut, yogurt and cucumber, baba ghanoush, and spicy hummus), which, along with feta, Stilton, and cheddar cheeses, were covered and stacked in the enormous glass-door refrigerator. Opposite the refrigerator stood the colossal brick bread oven. Baking away in its domed belly was the last of the 'sangak' bread loaves, three feet long and counting, rising in golden crests and graced with scatterings of poppy and nigella seed. The rest of the bread (paper-thin 'lavash,' crusty 'barbari,' slabs of 'sangak' as well as the usual white sliced loaf) was already covered with comforting cheesecloth to keep the freshness in. And simmering on the stove, under Marjan's loving orders, was a small pot of white onion soup (not to be mistaken for the French variety, for this version boasts dried fenugreek leaves and pomegranate paste), the last pot of red lentil soup, and a larger pot of 'abgusht.' An extravaganza of lamb, split peas, and potatoes, 'abgusht' always reminded Marjan of early spring nights in Iran, when the cherry blossoms still shivered with late frosts and the piping samovars helped wash down the saffron and dried lime aftertaste with strong, black Darjeeling tea.

Unfamiliar aromas waft from the building as the sisters create foods from their past. And we begin to see the range of reactions from the villagers. Some, such as the xenophobic village bully Thomas McGuire who has coveted that space or years, aren't thrilled with the exotic foreigners in their midst. Others, such as their landlady and the parish priest, become regular and ardent customers as soon as the doors open.

Each chapter begins with a recipe and, through Marjan's cooking, we learn about the sisters' experiences in Iran through flashbacks related to the foods. Though Mehran doesn't shy away from the traumas that can occur during political upheaval, she achieves a delicate balance of reality and sensitivity. It's quite a remarkable book that has me longing to read more about the Iranian revolution.

A couple of years ago, I read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi when I saw it on D's 8th grade reading list for the school year and I hadn't read it. Reading Lolita in Tehra is next on my nightstand. If you have any other recommendations, please send them my way.

On the Plate

I initially did a happy dance when my Chelo ba Tahdig turned out beautifully. It had a lovely crisp on the bottom which is inverted to become the top; the inside rice kernels were pillow soft. It glowed golden and the barberries added the perfect zing. But I haven't been able to replicate it. Not yet. So, I am reserving that recipe until it's foolproof.

Kabob Koobideh
Ground Meat Kebabs

For today, I'm sharing my version of Iranian Kubideh or Koobideh, ground meat kebabs. I have seen it spelled multiple ways. Though this wasn't specifically mentioned in the book, it is something that I envision Layla packing on a picnic to go meet Malachy. And because I remember eating fresh herb salads at my Iranian friend's table, I decided to serve my kebabs with a thick herb paste, similar to Argentinian chimichurri.

Ingredients serves 4

  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 C finely minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 t ground cumin
  • 1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 t ground cardamom
  • Also needed: wooden skewers, grill pan
Herb Sauce
  • 1/2 C organic parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • juice from 1 organic lemon
  • olive oil, as needed


Soak wooden skewers for 20 to 30 minutes so they don't burn during cooking.

Herb Sauce
Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse till consistency that you want. Set aside.

Mix all of the kebab ingredients together in a bowl. I use my hands to make sure the spices are well-distributed.

Dry off the skewers. Then form elongated meatballs and pierce them with the skewers. Press the meat onto the skewers as tightly and evenly as possible.

Heat your grill pan and rub the surface with oil or butter. Place the skewers on the pan and cook for 1 to 2 minutes before rotating. Make sure the meat is completely browned; I think I rotated mine four times and cooked approximately 2 minutes per rotation.

Serve immediately with the herb sauce on the side.

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the item of your choice.

In addition to submitting this to #CooktheBooks, I am adding it to #FoodieReads.
Click to see what everyone else read in February 2020: here.


  1. Love kebabs and these sound wonderful. I think you will find Reading Lolita in Tehran good but, of course, disturbing. I haven't read Persopolis.

    1. Persopolis was a graphic novel. Not my usual pick, but it was well written.

  2. I can't wait to start this one. Do you think these would be great grilled? I'm already thinking about patio cooking. :) Love the sauce, too.

  3. Kebabs and an herbal sauce! I love grilling indoors, in cold weather, and without the fuss of setting up a BBQ. What a great contribution inspired by this book.

  4. There’s a book called The Saffron Kitchen that was very good. I think it was pre-revolution though but still set in Iran.

  5. I hope you get to replicate your success with Tahdig: it looks nice. I like the idea of meat on sticks for a picnic: well done! Thank you for your contribution to this edition of Cook the Books :)

  6. I love the movie of Chicken with Plums based on Marjan Sartrapi's graphic novel.

  7. Very Nice! I love kebabs as they are one of my fun foods. Meat or veggies on a stick, sign me up. I liked the book and it’s cool to see where people got their inspiration on the dishes presented.

  8. I had never heard of this dish but this name anyway, but it looks just perfect for a summer get together (assuming we get to do those things again sometime soon)


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