That’s right – KEBABBA. You’re here now and you can’t go back, lured in like the drunken revellers are drawn to the lights of the kebab shop, intrigued by the sights and smells. But, what is this KEBABBA, you ask? Is it the long anticipated reveal of Oxford’s answer to McCauley Culkin’s Pizza Underground — a doner themed ABBA tribute band? Is it a new word which joins together in an incongruous harmony both of my staple late night nutritional and listening habits? Is it an inane pun constructed for the sole purpose of spinning 500 words about the time me and my friend William made a Kebab?
Well to answer your entirely valid questions, dear reader, it is because over the past few days I have come to the startling conclusion that, and bear with me on this one, ABBA and Kebabs are the same thing: food is music, life is art, ABBA is kebabs.
How is that possible; one is the greatest pop group of all time, and the other is the greatest and most pervasive late-night meal? Yet both occupy the same space in our collective heart. Our yearning for ABBA is the same as our insatiable desire for a dripping lamb kebab.
1. They are at once repulsive and alluring. If foods were bands then kebabs would be ABBA. There is something grimly fascinating about ABBA. It’s so kitsch, so cheesy, some of their songs contain suspect lyrical constructions, and yet you can’t get enough because they are addictive. You just don’t get bad ABBA songs. You don’t get bad kebabs. You get good ones for sure. But the bad ones are still good. You enjoy the moment you sink your teeth in like you enjoy the “uh huh” in the chorus of Knowing Me Knowing You: slightly guilty but without regret.
2. They are things which drunk people enjoy. Drunks like ABBA. Drunks like Kebabs. Do you remember that pres when your friend jumped up on the table to sing along enthusiastically to “Take a Chance” and the table leg buckled and she fell over and everyone won’t let her forget it? Do you remember when when your mate came back from a night out and fell asleep on your bed with the side of his face resting delicately on his half-eaten kebab and only woke up at 8am the next morning? ABBA is the soundtrack to our embarrassments in the same way kebabs are their taste. When you wake up the next morning you’ve either got that song from pres stuck in your head or the taste of the garlic sauce in your mouth, or if you’re lucky, both.
3. They fly in the face of pretension. “Yeah mate, no yeah would definitely be up for going bully tonight, yeah I’m a big fan of (insert buzzy rah DJ) gonna be mad” – except you don’t really want to go to the Bullingdon do you? What you actually want to do is get a cheap bottle of wine, get some ABBA on at pres, get to the undisputed Best Night in Oxford: FNE (Friday Night Emporium for the uninitiated), request ABBA over and over again for 45 minutes until the DJ eventually succumbs and plays ABBA songs to all 6 of you in the club. Then when it shuts, you want to walk down the High Street to see Ahmed’s in the distance, just peeking out from around the bend, ready to dish up a dripping, oil-sodden, delicious, disgusting, meaty, perfect kebab. And then you want to walk back past all of the miserable looking people coming back from Cowley, with their cool hair and their identical clothing, and their sad eyes, and you want to eat your kebab and shout out The Winner Takes it All in its entirety and feel great.
That’s that really. If you would like to know how we made a kebab and want to make one yourself there’s a recipe below. A good idea for a barbecue is one of the big roasting trays from Robert Dyas filled with coals because it gets way hotter, and is better, than a one-use tray.
For the meat and marinade:
Chicken thighs (skinned and de-boned or breasts if you’re lazy)
Lots of salt
For the rest:
Something to hold it in (I.e. bread, pitta, wrap etc)
Salads and sauces
1. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade together and taste it to work out ratios for yourself. The yoghurt mix should just about coat the chicken and it should have quite a lot of lemon juice and salt. The flavour will get less intense during the cooking so make the marinade more powerful than you think it should be.
2. Add chicken thighs and leave to marinade for about 8 hours (or as long as you can realistically – 2 hours is probably minimum).
3. Poke multiple skewers through one of the pieces of meat and layer the rest on top until it resembles a kebab.
4. Try and keep it high over the flame so it doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside. We used bricks to support our one and turned it manually every minute/couple of minutes.
5. Wait for probably longer than you initially expected (will depend on the heat of your barbecue) and shave off the outside bits of the kebab when they get browned.
6. Serve in pitta/wrap/bread with salad and sauce.
7. Take photos of your kebab and show them to Ahmed who will be politely underwhelmed and cause you to question why you even attempted this undertaking in the first place.