Isobar kebabs

I am a great fan of Philip Harben, the first TV chef; he sounds great fun and slightly eccentric, in the nicest way. He was born in 1906 and sadly died when he was only sixty-four, however he lives on in his cookery books, and there are several videos of him on YouTube.

In the little 1946 cookery book, Cooking Quickly, in the chapter ‘Cooking quickly with no previous preparation, he gives several recipes for his version of kebabs – Turkish, beef and then the mysterious Isobar Kebabs. At the bottom of the page, I have given a list of all the kebabs on Wikipedia, which come from a large number of countries, including;

  • Afghanistan
  • Africa including Nigeria, South Africa
  • Azerbaijan
  • China
  • Cyprus
  • Greece
  • India
  • Iran
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Pakistan
  • Portugal
  • Scotland (yes, really)
  • Spain
  • Turkey
  • USA (various different parts, including Dakota and the Pacific Northwest)

… but nowhere is there any skewered meat dish which sounds anything like Isobar Kebabs… was it something Mr Harben made up, was it a name which he misheard or was mistranslated? Who will ever know! I looked up the word ‘isobar’ to se if it gave me a clue – it’s something to do with weather, I know that… Back to Wikipedia…

  1. Isobars are atoms (nuclides) of different chemical elements that have the same number of nucleons.
  2. Isobars are lines of equal or constant pressure on a graph, plot, or map; an isopleth or contour line of pressure. More accurately, isobars are lines drawn on a map joining places of equal average atmospheric pressure reduced to sea level for a specified period of time.

I don’t think Philip Harben meant either of those things… so here is his recipe:

  • half-kidneys
  • chipolata sausages (they must be the uncooked English sausage sort of chipolata, not a Frankfurter type as you will see from the method!)
  • small mushrooms
  • ( he also suggests you could use steak cubes, pieces of lamb, calves’ liver, bacon and so on)

Thread on a skewer half kidneys, chipolata sausages and mushrooms in this way:

  1. first stick the skewer through one end of a chipolata so that the other end hangs down
  2. Next thread the skewer through a half-kidney
  3. Now bring the free end of the sausage round and push the skewer through it so that the sausage wraps itself half round the kidney
  4. push it down to the handle end and put a small mushroom on next
  5. push it down to the sausage-kidney combination
  6. repeat with another sausage-kidney arrangement, another mushroom or a tomato maybe, and so on until the skewer is full
  7. grill for 10 mins

This wrapping the sausage round the kidney is not just done for fun. The two coalesce and fuse together into a very tasty combination.

I love the way at the end of the recipe without any previous mention, tomatoes are suddenly introduced!

I think kidneys might be a bit of a strong flavour for my delicate family (I love them) so I might take his streak or lamb suggestion if I were to do it – and certainly I think tomatoes would be nice!

Here is the list of names of kebabs… I’m not sure you’ll be that interested, but here it is all the same!:

  1. Achari Tikka
  2. Adana Kebabı
  3. Ali Paşa Kebabı
  4. Alinazik Kebab
  5. Antep Kebabı
  6. Bahçıvan Kebabı
  7. Berenj Goje Kabab
  8. Beykoz Kebabı
  9. Beyti Kebab
  10. Bihari Kabab
  11. Bihari Kebab
  12. Bostan Kebabı
  13. Boti Kebab
  14. Burra Kebab
  15. Cağ Kebabı
  16. Çardak Kebabı[14]
  17. Chapli Kebab
  18. Chelow Kabab
  19. Chenjeh Kabab
  20. Chicken Tikka
  21. Chislic
  22. Ciğer Kebabı
  23. Çökertme Kebabı
  24. Çöp Şiş
  25. Dahi Ke Kabab
  26. Dakkochi
  27. Dandeh Kebab
  28. Doner Kebab
  29. Dora Kabab
  30. Espetadas
  31. Galauti Kebab
  32. Galawat Kabab
  33. Ghaz Kabab
  34. Gola Kabab
  35. Gyros
  36. Hariyali Kabab
  37. Hariyali Kebab
  38. İskender Kebap
  39. İslim Kebabı
  40. Joujeh Kabab
  41. Kabab Bakhtiari
  42. Kabab Barg
  43. Kabab Barreh
  44. Kabab Chenjeh
  45. Kabab Digi
  46. Kabab Hosseini
  47. Kabab Isphahani
  48. Kabab Jigar-O Del-O Gholveh
  49. Kabab Kermanshahi
  50. Kabab Koobideh
  51. Kabab Kurdi
  52. Kabab Loghmeh
  53. Kabab Mahitabeh
  54. Kabab Memuleh B’hatzilim
  55. Kabab Rashti
  56. Kabab Shamshiri
  57. Kabab Shirazi
  58. Kabab Soltani
  59. Kabab Torsh
  60. Kabab Va Nun
  61. Kabab Vaziri
  62. Kabab-E Donbalan
  63. Kababe Shandiz
  64. Kağıt Kebabı
  65. Kakori Kabab
  66. Kalmi Kebab
  67. Kastoori Kebab
  68. Kebab Halabi
  69. Kebab Hindi
  70. Kebab Kamayeh
  71. Kebab Karaz
  72. Kebab Khashkhash
  73. Kebab Siniyye
  74. Kebab Tuhal
  75. Khan Kebab
  76. Kılıç Şiş
  77. Kuyu Kebabı
  78. Kuzu Şiş
  79. Kyinkyinga
  80. Lola Kabab
  81. Lyulya Kebab
  82. Malai Tikka
  83. Manisa Kebabı
  84. Orman Kebabı
  85. Paneer Kabab
  86. Patates Kebabı[16]
  87. Patlıcan Kebabı
  88. Pincho Moruno
  89. Reshami Kebab
  90. Reshmi Kabab
  91. Salmon Kebabs
  92. Samak Kebab
  93. Satay
  94. Seekh Kebab
  95. Senjeh Lebab
  96. Sham Kebab
  97. Shami Kebab
  98. Shami Kebab
  99. Shashlik
  100. Shawarma
  101. Sheftalia
  102. Shikampur Kabab
  103. Shishleek
  104. Şiş Kebabı
  105. Şiş Köfte
  106. Şiş Tavuk
  107. Sivas Kebabı
  108. Sonnati Kabab
  109. Sosatie
  110. Souvlaki
  111. Souvlaki
  112. Stonner Kebab
  113. Sutli Kebab
  114. Suya: Kewap
  115. Tandır Kebabı
  116. Tandoori Kebab
  117. Tangri Kebab
  118. Tas Kebap
  119. Tava Kebab
  120. Testi Kebabı
  121. Tire Kebabı
  122. Tokat Kebabı
  123. Urfa Kebabı
  124. Yakitori


  1. Rozelle

    I can put you out of your misery over the name ‘Isobar kebabs’. Philip Harben was the chef and manager of the Isobar – an on-site restaurant based at Lawn Road Flats in Belsize Park (also known as the Isokon building).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Magnus Englund

    Philip Harben lived at flat 7 of Lawn Road Flats with his wife Katherine ca 1938-40, he was the manager of the Isobar while she was the manager of the building, until he was called up to the RAF. Turkish kebabs were on the menu and the restaurants interiors were designed by Marcel Breuer of the Bauhaus. Harben was also a member of the Half Hundred Club, a private supper club operating out of Lawn Road Flats.. His predecessor as Isobar manager was Tommi Layton, founder of Laytons Wine Merchants. The Isobar ceased in 1969. The building is Grade I listed since 1999 and contain a museum.

    Liked by 1 person

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