Little good news comes out of Iran these days. It was once the seat of the Peacock Throne and the home of a glorious long line of shahs. A fascinating tourist destination that any of us would have given our right hand to spend time travelling in; it features unbelievable archaeology, stunning architecture, vibrant souks and an ancient and rich culture.
Alas, the Islamic revolution put paid to all of that for the last forty years and maybe for our lifetimes too. Not much comes out of Iran these days but oil and exported revolution with its associated instability and chaos.
Despite all of that negativity, they still make the best Persian rugs, their ceramic work from Isfahan is top-notch and their culinary world is worth more than a cursory glance.
One of the Iranians’ favourite dishes is the little known (in the west) Joojeh Kebob, made from chicken breast or thigh meat, marinated in lemon or lime juice, chopped onion and saffron. Traditionally Joojeh is marinated for 24 to 48 hours; it’s pretty much cooked by the citric acid before the charcoal can singe the sides. With less patience than the traditional Persian, most of us make do with a mere 6-12 hours of marinating.
Lemon and lime are always a game-changer for me, lending personality, freshness and a zingy zest to whatever food they are incorporated with. The addition of the spice saffron to the lemon/lime, used for both colour and flavour, gives both a visual and a taste bud experience.
Ingredients: (for two people = 4 kebobs)
- Chicken steak cut from from thigh and leg x 4 pcs.
- Medium onion chopped small
- Juice plus zest of one lemon or lime
- Two small teaspoons of crushed saffron flowers
- Pinch of hot pepper flakes (optional)
- Good shluk of olive oil
- Coarse salt and ground pepper, ½ teaspoon of each.
- Bamboo skewers
Cut each chicken steak into quarters, set aside. Put all of the ingredients into a bowl, mix well, add the chicken, mix again to ensure everything is well coated, cover with cling wrap and place in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours and up to 48 hours if you want to be really authentic. The citric acid slowly marinates the chicken to the point that the bird is pretty much cooked before you put it on the BBQ.
Soak the bamboo skewers for at least half an hour in water before adding the chicken meat. Fold each quarter in two and thread onto the skewer. Turn BBQ on until hot, sprinkle a little more coarse salt and ground black pepper, then put skewers onto the BBQ, drop flame to low so as not to burn, and turn until done. I personally only use the BBQ to get the colour and grill flavours on the kebob, then finish it in a 200°C oven for about ten minutes or so. This way you are able to prepare the meal earlier, clean up, shower and join your guests without smelling like an Assador.
Joojeh kebob goes well with plain white rice and an Israeli/Arab salad or greens of your choice.
Bon Apetit or as they say in Farsi:
Nooshe Jan (may it nourish your soul)
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