Za'atar citrus chicken - the lovely smell of chicken BBQ


Today I did a quick and easy chicken barbecue dish with the wonderful and versatile middle-eastern herb and spice mixture Za'atar. 

I love the smell of a proper coal barbecue. To me it smells of summer and happiness and nights that never get dark. Sometimes I want to light the coals just for the smell, even when I am not planning to cook anything. In our little market place near the high street they sometimes do a barbecue, I don't ever buy the food but sometimes I stand there for a while inhaling. The smell brings up all kinds of sunny summer memories from when we were kids, dad behind a small red kettle barbecue and mum laying the table in the garden.

Za'atar citrus chicken on BBQ

My dad is more of an academic than a practician, so a great chef he is not. He does the barbecuing though, because in my parents household it's a man’s job. Mostly I remember dad doing pork chops and chicken when we were kids. I particularly loved the chicken. They bought whole chicken, cut them into pieces and barbecued with just simple seasoning of salt and pepper and brushing the pieces with a BBQ sauce during the grilling.

The drumsticks were the most sought after piece. My sister who always had a pathetic appetite would have a wing and be happy with that. I bet that’s why she’s got a special place in my frugal dad’s heart. The rest of us had healthy appetites and dad still reminds me of a time when I had 7 pieces of chicken. I can see it's quite a lot for a child but I'm not sure if it's enough to alert the Guiness book of records people exactly. Dad clearly was deeply traumatised by this.

But there is one different kind of BBQ memory. My mum used to be a very devout Lutheran – I think she still is devout, but less fundamentalist and mellowed with age. She is certainly much more accepting of different religious views, which is handy for my muslim husband. But back then she wasn’t much of an interfaith pluralist (I just looked up the term and mum was not mentioned there). 

Dad was outside barbecuing pork chops. It was a lovely sunny Sunday, all us kids where hanging there as well, I think we were playing football, this wasn’t the time though when I tackled my sister so that she broke her arm. Maybe if she’d eaten more and hadn’t been so bloody skinny all the time she wouldn’t have gone flying from my little tackle.

So while my dad was innocently tending to the chops, the Jehova’s witnesses came to talk and sell their leaflets as they used to in our little town sometimes. We’d all been told by mum to politely say thank you but never to buy the magazines. As if we would use our weekly allowance to buy a Zion's Watch Tower. But that Sunday Dad bought one, we’ll never know why, or we might if we asked, actually. But I suppose it was just to get rid of them before the chops burned. But mum saw it from her vantage point behind the potato pan in the kitchen and came out in rage her Titian hair flowing. She was probably a bit like Jesus when he found the money launderers or whoever they were in the temple and overturned the tables, and money and pigeons (!?) went rolling everywhere. In our case it was the red kettle barbecue and the pork chops that were overturned and went a-rolling.

Dad sulked even after mum brushed the chops clean and we all sat around the table and assured the chops were great and the grains of sand were hardly noticable.

Nothing to do with the blog post, but we went walking in the Chiswick
House Gardens today and I got close to a heron when it was just
taking flight and got this picture so thought I'd share it.

Za'atar citrus chicken marinating

Za’atar Citrus Chicken recipe

12 chicken drumsticks
1/3 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves
3-4 tbsp za’atar
Zest and juice of a lemon
Juice of half a lime
Salt and pepper

Mix together oil, minced garlic, za’atar, lemon zest and juice, lime juice, salt and pepper and whisk all ingredients together. Add the chicken and massage so all the drumstick get a could coating of the marinade. Leave to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours or even overnight.

Heat up your barbecue and grill the meat until juices run clear. 

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  1. I loved this recipe and I made it at home, I was looking for a page where they sold special olive oil and I found a page where I bought it online and it was delicious!

    Highly recommended!

    link text