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Good Taste: The Kebab Revolution

Good Taste: The Kebab Revolution

It’s the Gucci loafer of meats, the Saint Laurent clutch of flatbreads. We caught up with Le Bab founder and kebab connoisseur Ed Brunet, the man behind the UK’s burgeoning kebab revolution, to find out what makes the perfect grilled kebab. Not for them the greasy high street donners – Ed and his team are pioneering the gourmet kebab movement. Le Bab champions the global heritage of the humble skewer and takes it to new heights of sophistication. Kebab couture, if you will. We met at the beautifully appointed Le Bab HQ to talk ‘bab gastronomy, lethal sours and upping your grill game.

On the Le Bab mission . . .
We approach kebabs with a sense of gastronomic care that's all too often lacking in the UK. Our principle focus is on using the highest quality, British, seasonal ingredients.

A brief history of kebabs . . .
Kebab history is fiercely debated and a source of national pride in many countries – so it's a tricky subject to navigate. Iranians and Turks both claim to be the birth place of kebabs. What is known is that it originated from soldiers grilling meat on their swords, which most closely resembles today's shish kebabs, and the earliest known reference to the word kebab comes from a 14th century Turkish text. However, the word is derived from the Persian verb for grilling. Today, even that definition has been loosed, with many well-established kebabs (in places of good repute, not just upright, gas-fired shawarmas!) not being grilled. The variety of kebab cultures from Eastern and Central Europe all the way to South Asia demonstrate how they have evolved in different cuisines to make best use of locally available ingredients. In the UK the iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad accompaniment shows a disregard for such a mentality.

On the Kebab revolution . . .
At Le Bab we’ve have embraced the historic way of developing kebabs and create our dishes with the best seasonal, British produce as our starting point. I suppose the revolutionary element is that we don't think that's been done here before, so ingredients like parsnips, fennel and Jerusalem artichokes have never featured in kebabs in the UK. But the thinking behind it is not revolutionary at all.

On sourcing their ingredients . . .
We work with some absolutely brilliant suppliers who make it possible for us to get the very best stuff. Quality and value are key in our choices. With vegetables, we follow the seasons which will always deliver the best flavoured ingredients, often at tremendous value. In terms of meat, we use very high grade, free range meat from around the UK. It's pricey but worth it for the quality and we transmit value to the customer by selecting less widely used cuts. These require more care and technical treatment by our chefs but it's worth it.

On upping your grill game . . .
Charcoal is not steady and even like gas – different areas will be hotter than others and as you cook, the amount of heat will naturally diminish unless it's supplemented. Getting a feel for this just comes with practice but a good grill game is incredible. Buy restaurant grade charcoal (available on Amazon for next day delivery) and invest in a really good pair of tongs - as much for shifting coals around as food. Get in the habit of keeping your charcoal topped up and don't be afraid to shift it around to get the heat you need just right. Have a thick cloth to hand to help do this without getting burnt!

On what makes the perfect kebab . . .
Great ingredients, bold flavours and charcoal or wood cooking.

On the perfect tipple to accompany the Venison Adana . . .
Our smoky sour uses mezcal and Islay whisky to really bring out the charcoal-grilled flavour of kebabs. It's lethal though . . .