Saturday, May 5, 2012

Shish Tawook – Middle East Meal, Part 1

Shish Tawook translated means skewered chicken. From the Middle East, this dish is made with chicken tenderized by a yogurt-based marinade and pan-fried or grilled until slightly charred.

Food Lust People Love: Shish Tawook translated means skewered chicken. From the Middle East, this dish is made with chicken tenderized by a yogurt-based marinade and pan-fried or grilled until slightly charred.

When we first moved to Kuala Lumpur a long, long time ago, our daughters took piano lessons from a lovely lady we called Aunty Esther at a small but busy studio behind the Ampang Point Mall. So I got to go there at least once a week.  Which became twice a week when younger daughter decided to also continue her violin lessons. 

I would make sure they were safely in class, then mill around for an hour.  One day, right outside the supermarket Giant, I happened to meet the owner of a little food stand called Tarbush. They sold shawarmas – chicken and lamb – and we had a great discussion of the Middle East (I had lived in Abu Dhabi years before and he was from Lebanon.) I told him he needed to start selling some of the other delicious foods from that area, like falafel and hummus and tabouli. He was just starting out but said he was planning to expand one day soon. 

If you live in KL or have traveled there, you know his dream came true!  He started by opening a proper restaurant there in Ampang Point and there are now Tarbush restaurants in several high profile locations.  Our favorite was still Ampang Point though, because it was so close to home and school. Sadly, I don’t remember his name but I like to think we played a small part in his success by our frequent patronage of his fledgling restaurant chain.

Once the restaurant opened, younger daughter always, and I mean always, got the shish tawook.   I made it the other night, thinking about her and mentally wishing her well in these final weeks of her freshman year at RISD.  Even though she is now a vegetarian.  Never mind that, her daddy and I loved it.  It's the thought that counts, right?

1/4 cup or 60ml plain yogurt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons or 45ml fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon flakey sea salt
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Put all the ingredients except the chicken into a Ziploc bag and mix well. 

Clean the extra fat and sinews off of the breasts and cut them into bite-sized pieces.   Pop them in the bag with the marinade and massage it until the chicken is well-coated.  Let this marinate for as long as you have or at least one hour.

When you are ready to cook the shish tawook, push the chicken pieces on to some wooden skewers and heat a non-stick skillet till very hot.  

Put the chicken on and cook for several minutes.  Turn the skewers over when they are well-browned.

Cook for a few more minutes until both sides are browned and the chicken is cooked through.   

Tarbush served this with French fries and a divine garlic mayonnaise.  I try not to fry food at home so I made tabouli and hummus (Stand by for Middle East Meal, Parts 2 and 3*) and served these and the chicken with some Lebanese flatbread from the supermarket.  I suggest you do the same.

[Pretend there is a photo of the finished dish here, okay? Somehow I forgot to take one.]


Looking for part two and part three of the Middle East meal?

Part 2: Tabouli

Part 3: Hummus 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Piri Piri Grilled Whole Baby Grouper

This piri-piri whole baby grouper is marinated first in homemade piri-piri sauce and then grilled to succulent perfection over hot coals.

Food Lust People Love: This piri-piri whole baby grouper is marinated first in homemade piri-piri sauce and then grilled to succulent perfection over hot coals.

As I mentioned in my last post, Piri Piri Grilled Chicken,  the sauce is great on fish or pork or prawns or pretty much whatever you want to grill.*  The original grill guy was also grilling fresh sardines but any fish will do!  I won’t repeat the making of the sauce again but here’s how to prepare the fish.

2/3 cup or 160ml piri piri sauce – made from this recipe – 1/3 cup or 80 ml for marinating, 1/3 cup or 80ml for basting while grilling.
2 small Grouper about 1 lb each or one larger fish of 2 1/4 lbs.
Sprinkle of flakey sea salt for serving
Fish holder/grill basket

Get your fish guy to gut, clean and scale the fish but leave it whole.  Once you get it home, make sure it is really clear of scales by giving it a quick scrape all over with a sharp knife - from tail to head.  Rinse it well.  Refrigerate.

About half an hour to an hour before you are going to grill, cut three or four nice scores in each side of the fish.

Pop them in a bag and pour over 1/3 cup or 80ml of piri piri sauce.  Massage the bag a little to make sure the sauce is all over both sides of the fish.  Put the bag on a plate and put it back in the refrigerator.

When you are ready to grill, light your charcoal fire and transfer your fish to the fish holder.  This handy item will make turning the fish a breeze.  We actually own four of these.  Two larger fish-shaped ones and two like the one you see pictured here, which work great for small fish or even burgers.

Our fish were about 1 in or 2.5cm thick so they didn’t need to cook long - about 5-6 minutes each side.  If you have one 2 1/4 lb fish, it will need to cook it a little longer, depending on the thickness.  Grill, turning occasionally and basting whenever you turn, until it is done.  We used another 1/3 cup or 80ml for basting.

You can check for doneness by sticking a knife in at the thickest part and making sure that the fish is white all the way to the bone.  Any grey left and you need to cook it a bit more.  Gently ease the fish out of the fish holder, using a sharp knife. 

Food Lust People Love: This piri-piri whole baby grouper is marinated first in homemade piri-piri sauce and then grilled to succulent perfection over hot coals.

Give it a light sprinkling of flakey sea salt.  Serve with some extra lemon or lime for squeezing onto the fish. 

Food Lust People Love: This piri-piri whole baby grouper is marinated first in homemade piri-piri sauce and then grilled to succulent perfection over hot coals.
The full meal:  grilled grouper, baby zucchini sauteed with garlic
and arugula/rocket salad with roma tomatoes and blue cheese.

For those of you who are printing out the instructions, make sure to print this link as well - for the sauce. 

*And for those of you keeping track, there was about a 1/2 cup or 120ml of piri piri sauce left after the fish.  It is currently marinating a small pork roast that will be put on the oven rotisserie tonight.  Can't wait!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Piri Piri Grilled Chicken

Whole butterflied chicken marinated with homemade piri-piri sauce and grilled to crispy perfection over hot coals is like a taste of southern Portugal and beaches and sunshine.

Years ago, we were driving around the Algarve in southern Portugal, looking for a meal.  Trying to avoid the usual touristy places, we pulled over to a little outdoor grill, with big uncovered barbecue pits, burning natural wood charcoal.  The old grill guy had a cigarette dangling from his lips but most of the smoke was coming from the fire.  He was grilling fresh sardines and butterflied whole chicken, slathered generously with homemade piri piri sauce.  The aroma was heavenly.  

It could have been the long day at a beautiful beach and the fresh sea air or the fact that I was pregnant with younger daughter, but: It was one of the best meals ever.  EVER.  I’ve recreated it a few times in the interim 19 years, tweaking the piri piri sauce or trying different marinades, but last weekend was one of the best yet.  

We sat and ate this, licking our fingers in a most uncivilized fashion and talking about what a great holiday that was and how we had never seen chicken grilled whole but split open before. Such a revelation! (Or perhaps we are easily impressed. Remember, this was way before Nigella.) But seriously, it is so much easier to deal with a whole chicken than to shift lots of pieces around! The Portuguese are brilliant. And so is this chicken.

For the piri piri sauce:
2.5 oz or 70g hot chili peppers
6 cloves garlic
1/4 cup or 60ml fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup or 120ml apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon flakey sea salt, like Maldon  
1 1/2 cups or 355ml extra virgin olive oil

(This is going to make way more than you need for one chicken, but it will keep in the refrigerator for two to three weeks.  Once you have tried it on chicken, you will need to add it to everything you are grilling: prawns, pork ribs, whole fish and who knows what else.  Trust me, you will.)

For the chicken:
1 whole chicken, cleaned and excess fat removed
Sprinkle of flakey sea salt to serve

Cut the stems off of your chili peppers and put everything for the sauce but the olive oil in a blender.  

Blend until the peppers are in tiny, tiny pieces, occasionally scraping the inside of the blender down.

Add in the olive oil and blend again.  Set this aside in a covered bowl and deal with your chicken.

Using a sharp knife or poultry scissors, cut right up the backbone and then turn the chicken over and press down on the breast to flatten the chicken out.  Make a couple of slashes with your knife in the thigh meat.  This will let the piri piri sauce penetrate but will also help the thighs to cook faster so the breast meat doesn’t dry out on the grill.

Pop the chicken in a Ziploc bag and add in about 1/2 cup of the piri piri sauce.  Massage it all around from the outside of the bag.  Let this marinate all day or overnight, but for at least an hour or two.  If it's more than an hour, put the bag in the refrigerator.

When you are ready to grill, light your fire with natural charcoal, if you can get it.  Otherwise, some briquettes with a couple of handfuls of damp smoking wood added as you put the chicken on will have to suffice.  Our barbecue pit is much less deep (and wide) than the traditional Portuguese grills so we had to use the lid to keep the flames from completely consuming the chicken.  On the other hand, using the cover to control the flames also allowed for a whole lot of smoking to go on and that only adds to the flavor.  

Grill your chicken, skin side up for about 10-15 minutes, basting regularly with more of the piri piri sauce. (I think we used about another 1/2 cup during the grilling.)  

Then turn it over and grill the skin side for another 10-15.  Again, baste often.  

Do be careful not to let it burn!  A little charring is a good thing though.  Control your fire by keeping the lid on but just a bit ajar to allow oxygen in or your fire will die.  Depending on the size of your chicken, 30 minutes over very hot coals, with the lid mostly on, might just do it.  

Baking and grilling with the lid mostly closed.  And it is smoking like crazy!
Remember that it is baking as well as being grilled.  If you are concerned, do check the thigh/leg joint and leave it in the barbecue pit, if needed, for a further 10 minutes or until it is just cooked through.

Remove from the grill and cut the chicken into serving pieces.  Give the whole thing a light sprinkling of flakey sea salt.

(As you can see, we were pigs and took a half each, since our only side was a tomato and herb salad and our chicken was so tiny.  But I ended up eating only my breast and wing for dinner.  The leg and thigh were devoured the next morning, straight out of the refrigerator – cold.  Such enormous flavor!  Still brilliant.)