Israeli Independence Day officially opens the BBQ season although most Israelis brave the great outdoors under any weather condition to feed their hungry families. The mangalist, as they are locally known have a passion for their art and have been seen in action in the most unusual places such as the side of a highway, traffic circles and even in the middle of the sidewalk. They are also completely absorbed in the grilling process and will not be distracted if the grass catches fire and the oasis burns to the ground as that is little to pay for a perfect shishlick or kebab.
All the equipment for grilling is found in almost every gasoline station around the country-charcoals, lighter and portable grills, the essential tools to participate in Israeli’s national pastime. The mangal aficionado is also never seen without his nafnaf, a piece of stiff plastic or cardboard to fan the flames. Not everybody knows the proper way of using the nafnaf but luckily there will be at least four different people yelling directions. “Fan from the left, fan from the top…” Although they never get too close otherwise they might be asked to replace the mangal man and do all the work.
Too intimidated to try your own mangal? Then hop into one of the countless grill restaurants such as Halil’s in Ramle which is always packed with patrons waiting impatiently outside the door. The downside is that you can’t linger after the meal to talk philosophy. If you’re done clear the way for the next group, if not you might be escorted out.
At home, we have a gas grill which everyone knows is not the real thing but it is convenient when coming home famished and in need of some instant food.
Middle Eastern Style Shish Kebab
500 grams ground meat, beef or lamb at least 20 percent fat
1 bunch parley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon baharat spice
1 onion, finely chopped
Preheat the grill or oven to medium high. Combine all ingredients, kneading with your hands.
You can either cover skewers with the mixture by flattening and molding or form round or oblong patties. It can be grilled in the oven or on an outside grill.