Iskender doner/adana is a lamb or beef kebab, served on a bed of small pita chunks, covered with a simple tomato sauce and yogurt, with a little bit of a butter/red pepper sauce as well. If you have access to pre-prepared gyro meat, that will work quite well.
Equipment note: supposedly you’ll need long flat skewers, but if you’re doing it on the grill, you could just aluminum foil wrap these kebabs, and if you’re doing it in a grill pan or baking them, who cares…
This dish is basically my idea of what Turkish food is all about.
For the Kofta:
2lb lean ground lamb or beef
1/2 small spanish onion, finely minced (1/4 cup)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1tbsp plus 1tsp Turkish paprika (if you can’t find this, a sweet Hungarian would work fine, but plain American paprika is just…bleh)
1/3 cup plus 1tbsp finely chopped italian parsley
1.5 tbsp olive oil
4 large tomatos, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped (2.5 cups) I admit I usually cheat and use canned tomato puree unless tomatos are in season.
pinch of sugar (if using puree – it helps take a bit of the ‘canned’ taste off)
2 to 4 pita breads
1 recipe yogurt-garlic sauce
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon Turkish red pepper (can be purchased easily online – Cayenne really isn’t a good substitute)
1 and 2/3 cup plain yogurt
4 garlic cloves, minced (use fresh please – the jarred stuff just isn’t right for this)
pinch of salt
(whisk these together, and refrigerate until cold prior to use)
Combine meat, onion, garlic, eggs, 1tbsp paprika, and 1/3 cup of parsley in a large bowl. season with salt/pepper and mix together.
Form into kebabs and grill medium (or medium rare if you trust your meat supplier)
Heat olive oil in a saucepan, over medium heat, and stir in tomatoes. Cook for about 1 minute, mashing the tomatoes with a potato masher or fork, until they form a puree (or…..you could just start with a can of tomato puree, like I usually do) season with salt and pepper, keep sauce warm.
Warm the pita bread while the meat is cooking, and cut the bread into 1 inch cubes. divide the bread among 4 plates (I prefer 1 pita per person, plus extra whole pita on the side).
Cut each kebab into 4 or 5 slices, placing it on top of the pita. spoon the warm tomato sauce over the meat, and top it with the yogurt-garlic sauce.
Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in 1tsp (I used more) paprika, and the Turkish pepper. Drizzle this over the yogurt sauce.
serve at once.
Bulgar and white rice go wonderfully as sides to this dish, especially if you get a bit liberal (the only time I like that word) with the butter sauce…
Either way, this is a WONDERFUL meal, easily made, and quite cheap if you stick with the ground beef version. its absolutely addictive.
Serve this with a shepherd’s salad as well – (equal parts tomato, green pepper, red onion, and cucumber, chopped in 1cm pieces, with chopped parsley, dill, and a little paprika, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice)
The local Turkish place sells their Iskender for about $12.99, and Katie and I typically split it, and are still right on the edge of stuffed. It comes with both rice and bulgar, as well as a few pieces of grilled tomato and green pepper on the side, and a shepherd’s salad. It’s cheap eats, and probably #1 on my list of comfort foods. The interplay of the flavours of the tomato and yogurt sauces are amazing.