Buttermilk Chicken Shish Kebab with Quick Lemon Pickle and Oregano
Shish (or cis) kebab – skewered pieces of cubed meat – is commonplace to all the cuisines across the Levant and Middle East. Most chicken shish kebabs will use breast meat, which is lean but lacks the juiciness and flavour of thigh meat. I use thigh meat, but feel free to use whichever you prefer.
|For the buttermilk chicken shish:|
|½ tsp||ground cumin|
|¼ tsp||cayenne pepper|
|1 tsp||sweet paprika|
|¼ tsp||ground cinnamon|
|2||garlic cloves, minced|
|2 tbsp||garlic oil or olive oil|
|1 tbsp||hot red pepper paste (biber salcasi)|
|grated zest and juice of 1 lemon|
|¼ tsp||coarse ground black pepper|
|8||chicken thighs, deboned, skinned and quartered|
|2||green peppers, deseeded and cut into chunks|
|2||red peppers, deseeded and cut into chunks|
|1||red onion, peeled and quartered|
|4||thin metal skewers, approximately 40–45cm long|
|GARNISH AND SERVE|
|pitas or flatbread|
|2 tbsp||olive oil or garlic oil, plus extra to brush|
|1 tbsp||thinly sliced spring onion|
|1 tbsp||picked oregano leaves|
|12||Confit Garlic Cloves (see ingredients below)|
|1 tbsp||Quick-preserved Lemon Pickle (see ingredients below)|
|For the confit garlic cloves (makes about 450g):|
|4||large garlic bulbs, cloves separated and unpeeled|
|2-3||sprigs of woody herbs of your choice, orgeano, lemon thyme, rosemary, 2 bay leaves|
|500-600ml||olive oil, to cover|
|For the quick-preserved lemon pickle:|
|zest of 3 lemons, cut into very thin strips|
|juice of 3 lemons|
FOR THE CONFIT GARLIC (optional garnish) Preheat the oven to 150°C/130°C Fan/Gas mark 2. Place the garlic in a deep 25cm cast-iron pan or roasting tray, along with the herbs and bay leaves. Add enough oil to cover. Tightly cover the pan with tin foil and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the garlic cloves have caramelised and softened. The flesh should ooze out of the skins with the lightest of pressure. Transfer to a sterilised Kilner jar or similar storage vessel. Keep, covered in oil, refrigerated for up to 2 months. Retain the excess oil for drizzling over everything. You can never have enough garlic in your life.
FOR THE PRESERVED LEMON (optional garnish) Put the lemon zest strips and juice in a pan and set over medium-low heat. Cook for 12–15 minutes until completely softened but still holding shape. The lemon juice should be on a gentle, rolling simmer as opposed to an aggressive boil. Be careful not to overcook the lemon skin, as it will fall apart and disintegrate into unmanageably small pieces. The idea is to have long strips of softened, tender zest still intact. Transfer the lemon zest with any remaining juice to an airtight jar and keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 month.
FOR THE BUTTERMILK CHICKEN SHISH Put the buttermilk, spices, garlic, garlic oil, hot red pepper paste, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper and onion in a bowl and stir together to combine. Add the chicken pieces to the marinade and massage the mixture into the chicken to ensure it’s evenly distributed and well coated. Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge for 4–6 hours or preferably overnight.
TO FINISH THE CHICKEN Skewer the chicken pieces intermittently with the red and green pepper and the red onion. Set a barbecue up for single-zone, direct grilling – ensuring that you are cooking on medium-hot embers. Grill the skewers directly over the burning coals, turning frequently to ensure both sides are well coloured and the chicken is cooked all the way through when checked with a knife (or to an internal temperature of 70°C or above when probed with a thermometer). Brush the pitas or flatbreads with a little olive oil mixed with a few drops of water, and warm through briefly on the grill. They can be placed directly on top of the skewers if there isn’t sufficient room in the barbecue.
TO GARNISH AND SERVE Remove the pitas and transfer to a serving platter. Place the skewered chicken thighs atop, brushed with olive oil. Scatter the spring onion and oregano leaves liberally over the skewers, along with the confit garlic cloves and lemon pickle. This kebab is great served with garlic sauce, Middle Eastern Slaw and pickles of choice.