Mixed grill of maple syrup lamb and orange and saffron chicken

17:06

Garden is now well and truly ready for summer. Fantastic Gardeners – that’s the promising name of the gardening service I used, I mean I wouldn't have gone for them if they were called Shit Gardeners, would I - did a fantastic job with the new decking and trellis, pruning and clearing the old bushes and removing all the creepers and the creepy spiders who lived in them.

Persian mixed grill of lamb and chicken with basmati rice

It’s a tiny garden, maybe it’s not even a garden really, but an outside space as these poky squares are called in London. So there’s really not much we can do with it, but we have a flowerbed full of … er flowers. I’m better at cooking than gardening, so I don’t know all the names. But there are lots of geraniums, which I love. The smell which is not necessarily what geraniums are most loved for reminds me of my maternal grandmother. They had a big veranda – a bit like a UK conservatory. It was a room with large windows which was used as an extra dining room when there were loads of us visiting at the same time. The window sills were always full of bright red geraniums and the pungent smell of the plants was the first thing you’d notice walking in to the house through the veranda.

In addition to my red, fuchsia and white geraniums I have a good range of my favourite herbs of course. Jamie Oliver once said in his 15 or 30 minute meals, which of course take minimum an hour for any normal person to do. I wonder if he is planning to introduce 8 minute meals which could be managed in 30 minutes in normal person time. Sometimes just finding the mesh bit of the garlic crusher can take 10 minutes. But so anyway, Jamie said whilst cheekily tossing his chops and nuts that if it wasn’t for fresh herbs he might just quit cooking altogether. Like him I love fresh herbs, so I grow a lot in my tiny garden. This year I have rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme, parsley, mint, oregano, sage, lavender, marjoram, dill and bay.

I was bragging at work to my colleagues that I grow all possible herbs myself. One of my work mates, a great gardener, tripped me up immediately asking if I had chervil. I haven’t got chervil, I hadn’t even thought of chervil. Does everyone grow chervil, why didn’t anyone tell me.

So on Sunday after painting the garden gate I got on with grilling a big pile of meat for husband and kids. If there was a step-mum of the year award I surely would stand a good chance or at least deserve a nomination in the Most Prolific Feeder category. Last summer  we visited my brother and his wife at their summer cottage and  they barbecued racks of lamb for us. The kids ate unbelievable amounts of that lamb. So that’s what I decided to do. I always like a bit of a mixed grill, so I marinated some chicken also. This is the very traditional Persian way to do chicken skewers or at least this is how I often see it served in Middle-Eastern restaurants in London. It is juicy and fantastic with hint of orange and the unique flavour of saffron.

To go with the meats I made saffron rice mainly because husband loves rice and I was also planning to make home-made oven chips, because who doesn’t love home-made oven chips. I actually don’t like chips generally. It’s probably the only kind of potato I don’t love, but I love my own oven chips. But my oven door broke, just like that, one of the hinges snapped and now if I try to open it gives an almighty wail.

I am disappointed. It’s a fantastic big dual fuel Kenwood range and I wouldn’t have expected it to let me down like this. At least I managed to get all my peanut butter cookies baked before it gave up on me on Saturday night. Maybe it’s like the human heart that apparently has a certain amount of beats in it, which is why you should try to stay fit and lower your average heart rate so that the beats would last longer. Although then you'll probably die of cancer, so you can't really win. But maybe an oven only has a certain amount of opens in it and with my rate of use I got through it in a relatively short time. Timing sucks though as my parents are coming this week, and I’m away most of the week. I could delegate the job of getting it fixed to husband, but I know he’d try to fix it himself with disastrous consequences instead of calling an oven repair guy to do the job, so that’s a no go.

I have already also made a modified version of my weekend menu in case I have to manage without the oven. It was actually fun to plan it, but I hope I don’t have to do it, because I’d love to do my Provencal duck legs and I haven’t figured out how to do them without the oven. Maybe dig a pit in the garden and burn some wood and bury  the legs in there for a couple of days.

The yoghurt marinated lamb recipe is here – you can use any barbecueable cut of lamb – chops, cutlets, bits of leg for a skewer. Instead of honey this time  I used Canadian maple syrup. I’ve got a Canadian colleague, not the chervil fanatic, who visited home recently. She knows I’m a keen cook so she brought me a huge bottle of this golden loveliness. It is seriously so much better than anything you can get in a supermarket here. It’s fun to have someone at work to talk about snow and moose and ice-hockey with. The English with their rain and lamb and cricket just sometimes aren’t enough.

Bottle of Canadian maple syrup

But the chicken – this is possibly my favourite BBQ chicken recipe. I also often go for it in a Middle-Eastern restaurant or when we visit our favourite little stall in Camden. Or in Dubai, it’s either Chicken Biryani or this. I use this recipe, sometimes I add turmeric or cumin or paprika, I often also use a bit more saffron just because I love saffron. But this recipe is pretty fantastic just the way it is. Click the link above for the original, below with my adjustments.
Joojeh kebabs - Persian chicken skewers
Ready to hit the grill

Persian Joojeh Kebabs - Orange, yoghurt and saffron marinated chicken skewers (serves 4)


For the chicken:
2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, grated
4 cloves garlic, peeled, and crushed
2 tablespoons zest of orange
1/2 cup of yogurt
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1-1.3kg chicken thigh or breast steak cut to pieces

For the baste:
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine half the saffron water and the lime juice, olive oil, onions, garlic, orange zest, yogurt, salt, and pepper. Beat well with a fork. Add the chicken and toss well with marinade. Cover and marinate for at least 8 hours and up to 2 days in the refrigerator. Turn the chicken twice during this period.

For the baste:

Add the juice of 1 lime and the remaining saffron water to the melted butter. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix well and set aside.

Skewer the chicken pieces and cook over a hot charcoal grill. Brush the chicken with the basting mixture. Grill the chicken 8 to 15 minutes, until done. Turn frequently and baste occasionally. The chicken is done when the juice that runs out is yellow rather than pink.

Grill halved tomatoes and flatbread and serve with rice and salad. 

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