Jujeh Kabab (Persian Barbecued Chicken)

It’s hard to believe that August is almost over. Luckily barbecue season will continue for another few weeks. Persians are no stranger to the barbecue…..our kababs are world-renowned. One of my favourite kababs to make at home is Jujeh Kabab – juicy chicken marinated in lemon, saffron, yogurt and onion then grilled over hot coals.

Traditionally, Jujeh Kabab is made with bone-in chicken pieces, usually small chickens or Cornish hens that are threaded onto skewers. In 1961, Queen Elizabeth visited Iran and was the guest of The Shah. At the royal dinner they served Jujeh Kabab. Much to everyone’s surprise the Queen of England picked up her chicken and ate it with her fingers (something Iranians at the time would never do in the company of guests). Out of respect, the rest of the people seated at the dinner also picked up their chicken and ate with their hands. Still to this day when someone refuses to eat chicken off the bone with their fingers, Iranians will remind them that the Queen of England did not have a problem eating with her hands so they shouldn’t!

In this recipe I have simplified things and made the Jujeh Kabab using boneless, skinless chicken thighs and have skipped the skewers. I love using chicken thighs. I find that they have more flavour, are juicier and almost impossible to dry out. But if you prefer you may use breasts and if you do not have a barbecue, they are also delicious made in the oven.

Jujeh Kabab

(serves 4)

8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you may use breast meat if you prefer)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cups plain yogurt (2% or full fat)
juice of two lemons
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water

Put chicken in a large bowl or a large ziplock bag. Add all the other ingredients and stir to blend well and cover the chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 4 hours.

Preheat your BBQ on medium-high heat. Put the chicken on the grill and cook for approximately 5-7 minutes per side (until 160 degrees farenheit on instant read thermometer).

Transfer to a serving dish and let rest for a couple of minutes. Serve with lemon wedges. Enjoy!

* You may also cook these in the oven. Bake them in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.

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Persian Inspired Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad

In the last few years I’ve noticed that watermelon and feta salads have been popping up on restaurant menus and at foodie dinner parties. Many are intrigued by this unique and unusual combination of flavours. For me, there is nothing unusual about pairing feta with watermelon……I’ve been eating them together since I was a toddler!

While most of my Canadian friends were eating pancakes and waffles for weekend breakfast, my typical weekend fare was toasted Persian barbarry bread, feta cheese, some sort of accompaniment and a cup of Persian tea. The accompaniment varied… sometimes we ate our bread and feta with dates (my favourite), mint and walnuts, jam (my favourite was Persian carrot jam) or fresh watermelon. When I was young, my brother and I would tear a piece of barbarry, put a little chunk of feta and our favourite topping on it, dip it in our tea and pop it in our mouths. This is still one of my favourite breakfasts ever……although I now refrain from actually dipping it in my tea.

This is my version of a watermelon and feta salad. I love the combination of the sweet watermelon with the salty and creamy feta, refreshing mint and toasted walnuts. Make sure that you buy good feta. I prefer a sheep or goat milk Greek or Bulgarian feta.

Watermelon, Feta & Mint Salad
(Serves 6)

6 cups diced seedless watermelon (1 inch cubes)
1/4 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
200 grams diced sheep or goat milk feta (1/2 inch cubes)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup toasted walnut pieces*
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

Put the watermelon in a large bowl. Add the red onion, feta and mint.

Sprinkle with the toasted walnuts.

Pour the olive oil and lemon juice over the salad. Sprinkle on 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of fresh ground pepper. Toss and serve. Enjoy!

*To toast the walnuts. Place them in a small frying pan over medium high heat. Stir often for about 3-4 minutes or until they start to get fragrant and slightly toasted.