In the picturesque town of Qabala there is a riverside restaurant with an unusual name – Dasharasi Kebab, which translates literally as “Kebab between stones”. The restaurant is always full of patrons – and no wonder. They come to savour kebabs cooked in a very old, special way.

Only a few people can cook stone sandwich kebabs, one of whom is the chef at this restaurant. Here at Visions of Azerbaijan we fancy ourselves to be kebab connoisseurs, so off to the Dasharasi Kebab restaurant we went. Sunlight filtering softly through the trees, the mountain river chattering down the valley, the setting is just right for an age-old Azerbaijani delicacy. And what a marvellous delicacy it is! The kebab looks very simple, but leaves a magical impression in the stomach and the soul.

As he cooked the kebabs, the chef told us a story about their origin: Long ago when our ancestors lived high up in the mountains keeping sheep, they used natural ways for heating and cooking. They fried meat directly on stones. Not any old stones, only those that had been weathered by thunderstorms. The storms make these stones very strong.

Just a few people know what a thunder stone looks like, the chef continued. To get these stones you have to climb mountains and find the summits where thunderstorms are common. These stones have a different colour and shape. You choose the ones more suitable for cooking, then the hardest thing is bringing them down from the mountains; the stones are usually very heavy.

The stone rests on top of a stove. As the stove is stoked, the stone gradually heats up. The chef rubs pieces of sheep tail fat (quyruq) over the hot stone, then leaves the fat on the stone to cook amongst the meat. (Prized as a tasty and healthy form of fat, quyruq comes from the high fatty rump or tail that is characteristic of sheep in Azerbaijan.) The chef places pieces of meat onto the hot stone, and they soon start to sizzle. He adds slices of potato and aubergine to cook alongside the meat, then places a second stone, already heated, on top. Yum, the meat is exuding a heady aroma of kebab!

Dasharasi kebab is usually made with fresh lamb, we were told. All the vitamins and minerals remain in the kebab, making it a healthy dish, probably an important part of the diet of Azerbaijani centenarians!

How to cook thunder stone kebabs:

For 4 persons:
Boneless lamb – 800 grams
Diced sheep tail fat (quyruq) – 100 grams
2 large potatoes
2 aubergines
Salt and pepper
Most important, you need a stone weathered by thunderstorms, which will be hard to find whether you are cooking in Baku, Paris or New York. And don’t forget that you need to bring the stone down from a mountain top. If it all seems too difficult, we recommend you take a different way – the way to Qabala! Enjoy dasharasi kebab in its home territory, the foothills of the Caucasus.