IN THIS week’s edition of The Ticket we have the award-winning Shimla Spice restaurant manager Iftikhar Hussain giving away its renowned recipe of the well known shami kebab starter.

I was in a London a couple of weeks ago with friends. Whilst dining in an Indian restaurant, one of my friends randomly asked the question: “which do you think would be the old-school favourite Indian starter of all time?”.

This question really baffled me and made me wonder, and at the time I said I would give him the answer in the next edition of the Keighley News Ticket.

After much self research, my answer to that would be a shami kebab.

This is one of the most popular versions of the Pakistan and Indian kebab that is made of minced mutton, ground chickpeas (channa dal) and spices.

In Pakistan and Indian shami kebabs are eaten as snacks and are a must on all parties, special occasions and weddings.

Shami kabab can be made with any meat, either beef, chicken or mutton. The idea of a shami kebab is that it’s an Indian burger.

Many customers when ordering a shami kebab forget the name, and say "that burger type starter".

Shami kabab literally means the Syrian kabab (sham) in Arabic. During the Mughal era few Muslim emigrants from the Middle East countries had introduced this kabab to the South Asia countries.

The Mughals had employed cooks from all over the Muslim world to serve in the royal kitchens where few of the cooks were from Syria.

Another source states that the word Sham is “evening” in Hindi and Urdu, and Sham-e-Awadh has meant “evening in Lucknow” since the time of Nawab regime. Some people also believe that shami kababs originate from the famous village of Sham Churasi in the Hoshiarpur district of Punjab.

Lucknow, or Awadh as known earlier, is acclaimed for its gastronomic sophistication and people’s extravagent lifestyles and love for the performing arts.

Their kitchens (called bawarchi khanas) took pride of place in the royal courts, as did their bawarchis or rakabdars (gourmet cooks).

Awadhi cuisine of Lucknow is very popular, particularly biryani and an elaborate spread of exotic dishes like kebabs, kormas, kaliya, nahari-kulchas, zarda, sheermal, roomali rotis and warqi parathas.

The richness of Awadh cuisine lies not only in the variety of cuisine but also in the ingredients used like the subtle flavors of well made shami kebab and the tender portions of mutton kabab that one can never forget.

In Indian culture kebabs are mostly eaten as appetizers – wonderful spice-filled precursors to the gastronomical delights to follow. They are sometimes folded in roti wraps to create what we call kathi rolls, but mostly enjoyed on their own.

Then there are the kebabs that are a meal in themselves, stuffed and delicious treats that require no accompaniment other than a few squeezes of lemon, some chutney and maybe some slivered onions and/or tomatoes. These are, I think, the royalty of the kebab kingdom.

Now to the method and ingredients of this wonderful Indian/Pakistani burger starter.