Lentil and Pumpkin Shami Kebabs

Usually shami kebabs are made with a ground meat such as mutton, lamb or beef, which makes this vegetarian version different from the traditional variety you would typically find. The combination of lentils and pumpkin makes for a very meaty texture in these spicy little cakes, which pair nicely with the pickled onion relish.
November 16, 2015


By Nik Sharma

Makes 12–14 kebabs


1 cup lentilles du puy

3 cups grated pumpkin, raw (Sugar Pie pumpkin)

1 large egg

1 tablespoon chickpea flour

½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

1 teaspoon coriander, ground

1 teaspoon red chili flakes, freshly ground

1 teaspoon ginger powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon mace, freshly ground

¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds

¼ teaspoon cumin

2 cloves

Zest of 1 lime, fresh

1 green cardamom pod, seeds removed (discard the green shell)

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 teaspoon cilantro leaves, freshly chopped

1 green Thai chili pepper

¼ cup panko breadcrumbs (regular breadcrumbs will work too)

Olive oil for frying


Clean the lentils of any stones, wash and soak them in cold water overnight. The next day, drain the water, add 2 cups of water and bring the contents to a boil on a medium-high flame in a thick-bottomed stockpot. Then reduce the flame to low and cook the lentils for 45 minutes, until tender. Using a sieve, drain the liquid from the lentils and place the lentils on a clean towel to absorb any excess liquid.

In a coffee grinder or spice grinder, grind all the spices from the coriander to the cardamom seeds and keep aside.

In a food processor, add the rest of the ingredients except the olive oil. Add the lentils to this mix and pulse for 5 seconds 5 times to get a coarse mixture. The texture should be crumbly and not smooth. Transfer the contents to a bowl and use your hands to mix the ingredients (this ensures that everything is blended and seasoned uniformly). With the palms of your hands, mold the kebabs into little flattened discs that are about 1 inch in diameter. You should get approximately 12–14 kebabs.

Heat a little oil in a cast-iron skillet on a medium-high flame (I normally use about 2 tablespoons for every 6 kebabs). Fry 6 kebabs at a time for about 4 minutes on each side, until each kebab is golden brown (the internal temperature should reach 130°). Place the kebabs on a clean paper towel to drain any excess oil and serve hot with rice or flat bread (like naan or roti) and plain yogurt.

Quick Pickled Red Onion Relish

Serves 2–4


1 large red onion

½ cup apple cider vinegar

1 green Thai chili pepper, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Pinch of sea salt

⅛ teaspoon sugar


Peel the onion, cut in half and then thinly slice each section.

In a clean jar, mix all the ingredients together. Cover the jar tightly with a lid and shake it a few times. Leave for 15 minutes in the refrigerator before serving. You can adjust the amount of salt and sugar as needed but I prefer to have this more sour and less salty and sweet.

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