Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Iskender Kebab

A few months ago I made a frivolous comment about veganising an Iskender Kebab. The man and young man were rather keen on the thought of Iskender Kebab but I wasn't sure how to pull it off at the time so I added it to my "ideas" list for the future. The man was given a peek at this list recently as I wanted him to select a couple of items from it and his top pick was Iskender.

For the uninitiated, Iskender Kebabs are traditionally comprised of thinly sliced gyros meat served on top of cubes of Turkish pide which is covered with a tomato sauce and yoghurt and garnished with fresh tomato slices and parsley. We used to order them from a local kebab shop, obviously back when we were omnivores.

The main hurdle I needed to overcome was creating a decent Turkish pide. My previous attempt of making pide last year had shattered my confidence as the bread turned out almost rock hard! After looking up a few recipes, I made this one from taste.com.au and halved the recipe in case it didn't yield satisfactory results. This dough was extremely pliable and stretching out the pide to an even consistency proved to be a bit of a challenge. As you can see in the photo above, the centre of the pide turned out a lot browner and crispier due to the dough being too thin in this area. Regardless of these minor issues, the pide turned out so much nicer than than the one I tried previously. 

The gyros part didn't require much thought as we loved the taste and texture of the gyros seitan I adapted from I Eat Grains! last year. Both times I have added 1/4 cup chickpea flour to Rachel's recipe as I have found that seitan recipes from the US usually turn out moister than they should be. I found it interesting during recipe testing that someone from the UK mentioned that their gluten flour requires less liquid to be added than the US recipes state. Perhaps the vital wheat gluten used in the US acts a bit differently to the gluten flour available in other parts of the world.

The tomato sauce seemed too easy after looking up a few Iskender recipes. They all called for tomato paste with some water and melted butter with a few adding in a pinch of cayenne. A true vegan cultured yoghurt felt like way too much to tackle this time around so I decided to use something in it's place that we all adore, cashew cream.

We all loved this meal, it satisfied our kebab cravings and it was a lot of fun to plan and put together. There were quite a few steps involved in the recipe but it was spread over the course of a few days to lighten the load. There was some seitan leftover so for lunch the following day we had wrap style kebabs using store bought pita bread and I added some garlic to the remainder of the cashew cream. Iskender is not something I can see myself making on a regular basis but I'm sure it will be requested again in the future.

Iskender Kebab

Olive oil, for frying
1/2 quantity seitan gyros, sliced thinly
Turkish pide, cut into bite sized pieces and kept warm
Tomato sauce
Cashew cream
Fresh tomato slices and parsley, for garnish

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and cook the seitan in batches until browned on both sides.

Arrange the pieces of turkish pide on serving plates and place the seitan slices on top. Cover with some  tomato sauce and cashew cream and garnish with fresh tomato slices and parsley.

Turkish Pide (Adapted from taste.com.au)

250g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon dried yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup lukewarm water
Olive oil, for greasing
3/4 teaspoon nigella (black onion, kaloonji) seeds
3/4 teaspoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons dairy-free margarine, melted
2 teaspoon olive oil

Mix together the sugar, yeast and warm water in a small jug and set aside for a few minutes until it becomes frothy.

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the water into the well and mix the wet and dry ingredient together with your hands.

Tip the dough onto a clean bench and knead for about 10 minutes, after this time the dough should be smooth and springy. Lightly cover the dough with oil and place in a bowl. Cover with a tea towel and position in a warm spot for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.    

Preheat the oven to 230C and place a baking tray on the centre shelf. Place the dough on a floured surface and flatten slightly with your hands. Transfer to a baking sheet and cover with a damp tea towel for 15 minutes.

Stretch the dough out to a rectangular shape of approximately 40 x 18 cm. Leave on the baking paper and cover with the tea towel again. After 10 minutes, remove the tea towel and brush the top of the bread with a mixture of melted margarine and olive oil. Sprinkle the nigella and sesame seeds on top.

Remove the baking tray from the oven and slide the pide on the baking paper onto the tray. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the top of the bread turns a golden colour. 

Tomato sauce

1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup water
pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon dairy-free margarine

Stir together the tomato paste,water and cayenne pepper (if using) in a saucepan. Add the dairy-free margarine and heat on a low flame until the margarine has melted.

Cashew Cream

1 cup cashews
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon agave nectar
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Soak the cashews in hot water for at least 4 hours. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. Place the cashews, water, salt, agave and lemon juice in a blender and process for a few minutes, scraping down the sides if necessary, until it becomes a creamy sauce.  Keep refrigerated in a covered container.


  1. What a great effort Mel - these sorts of experiments in veganising dishes can be so rewarding when they go well, and clearly yours did go well here! I'd not heard of iskender kebabs but I'm quite taken with your version, although can see that the preparation time would make it a 'sometimes' dish.

    1. Thanks Kari, not only does the preparation time make it a "sometimes" dish but also the lack of vegetables involved!

  2. Wow, this looks like quite the undertaking, but so worth it in the end. Bread, seitan, sauce and cream - what could be bad about that!

    1. It did taste fantastic but left me feeling a bit deprived of any goodness.

  3. Mel, you have outdone yourself with this one! It looks amazing. I've already got your gyros recipe bookmarked and this has me keener than ever to try it.

    1. I actually think I prefer gyros to iskender, at least there is a bit of salad involved. If you get around to making a batch of the seitan you could always try it both ways though...

  4. Never heard of iskender kebabs but yours look amazing - and I have never attempted turkish pide but yours looks like something I would love to try - interesting thoughts about the gluten flour - I am a bit wary of gluten products but I think home made is the way to go

    1. The turkish pide will definitely be a recipe I return to as it's a bread that we love and I would like to improve on the browned bits next time. I prefer to make my own gluteny food as at least I know exactly what has gone into it but I like to be an occasional thing as there are healthier sources of protein around. The texture can be a challenge to get right but I enjoy preparing seitan as it's a bit like making bread.