Liver kebabs or skewers (kouah) are one of the most common street foods in Morocco. They’re available in practically every weekly souk and are a staple at many grill joints, vendor stands and restaurants throughout the country. This is actually one of our favorite fast food options if we are in a hurry or if we crave a takeaway meal.
For extra flavor and moisture, kidney fat (suet) may be threaded onto the skewer between every several cubes of liver. Drippings from the fat help keep the liver from drying out; they also create flavor-enhancing smoke when hitting the charcoal.
When making kouah, calf liver is preferred but you can also use sheep liver. The latter is particularly common during Eid al Adha when another type of liver kebab called boulfaf is prepared. Sometimes the liver in kouah is mixed with cubes of kidney and heart; in fact, butchers will usually propose the addition of these two organ meats whenever we buy fresh liver.
In the tradition of this recipe, the liver (kebda) should be well grilled—no one likes uncooked liver—but the inside should remain soft, springy to the touch and juicy. This requires careful watching to avoid over-cooked and gritty liver.
You can enjoy the liver right off the skewer, but many Moroccans like to stuff it into khobz or other bread and make a sandwich out of it. A salad of tomatoes and onions and sometimes fries might be offered as accompaniments, while Moroccan Mint Tea is the traditional beverage of choice.
Grilled liver skewers (kouah) are extremely popular throughout Morocco, where all kinds of offal are very much appreciated. Plan to cook the kebabs over charcoal for authentic flavor.
Eat directly from the skewer or make into a sandwich with a traditional tomato and onion salad along with green olives and harissa.
- 1.1 lbs calf or lamb liver less than 48 hrs old (young liver is better)
- 4 oz kidney fat (suet), optional but recommended
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp ground sweet paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
Remove the transparent membrane surrounding the liver. Cut the liver into cubes about 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick.
Cut the fat/suet into small cubes.
Combine the cubed liver and cubed fat with the spices. Cover and leave to marinate for at least an hour (or as long as overnight) in the fridge.
Prepare your grill and light the charcoal. The grill is ready for cooking when the flames have gone out and the coals have developed a thin grey cover.
While the grill is heating, thread the cubes of liver onto the skewer, alternating every few pieces with a cube of the kidney fat. Don't leave any space between the pieces but don't over pack the skewers either. We usually have 6 to 8 cubes of liver on each skewer.
Grill the kebabs, turning to cook on all sides, until the liver is cooked through and lightly seared but still a bit spongy when squeezed. Serve immediately.
Serve hot from the grill, generously sprinkled with cumin and cayenne powder or offer the spices on the side as condiments.
Make sure you have hot Moroccan tea and a good sandwich bread (khobz, batbout, pita or baguette) to go with it.
We also like to serve fresh tomato/onion/cucumber salad on the side of these grilled kebabs. Dip in with the bread, or use it as a sandwich filler along with the liver.
- It's always advisable to select fresh liver (no older than 48 hours) which has the least ventricles and veins possible. Calf liver is preferred to lamb liver for texture and also because it's easier to handle.
- There are two options to go about this recipe. 1) Cube and marinate the raw liver as described above; or 2) Slice the liver into 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick steaks and pre-grill them for 1 minute on each side to sear the liver (and "smell the heat" as we say) before cubing and marinating.
- The same recipe can be followed to make Moroccan kidney and heart skewers/kebabs.