Summer Barbecue Food

Come summer I start rooting for barbecue. We both love any kind of barbecued food from delicious meat in Sarajevo to wild-caught fish in Istria  where we have our summer retreat.

We’re not known to be early birds so we might come to fishmongers’ too late to be offered a vast selection of daily catch. When there’s no fish (or squid or prawns or scampi) to choose from we turn to butchers’ instead.

In temperate continental climates barbecue as means of food preparation is considered the ultimate summer option. I’m not saying cooking food over open fire out in the open is not possible during any other season. It is simply more practical to barbecue in summer.

Dinner is served: grilled chicken, runner beans with tomatoes, boiled potato and a big bowl of crispy green salad
Dinner is served: grilled chicken, runner beans with tomatoes, boiled potato and a big bowl of crispy green salad

When fish is in question I’m all for plain old grilling as to enjoy the taste of fish per se. All one needs is the freshest of fish and hands of a skilled grill master. The side dishes are where one can let one’s fantasy go crazy. Or not. I absolutely don’t mind a ladle of faithful Swiss chard and cooked potatoes to go with the seafood. A bowl of tomato salad does the trick too.

When it comes to barbecuing meat at our place I prefer chicken. One can do wonders with chicken and it’s not as fussy to grill as, say, beef or veal, which like to turn dry in amateurs’ hands. Chicken pieces on the other hand can be a canvas for your imagination.

Last year we were delighted by David Lebovitz’s chicken bulgogi, a Korean dish of barbecued chicken. This summer we tried our luck with Iranian Joojeh chicken following a saved recipe clipping from an old FT Weekend. The recipe is by Honey & Co duo and I’ve copied it below. We used lemon instead of orange and cow’s milk yoghurt instead of goat’s. Plus, my man just grilled the marinated chicken pieces together with lemon (we omitted the skewers that is). It turned out wonderfully delicious.

Marinating is easy and it gives you time to prepare your side dishes in no hurry. While your partner does the grilling, you set the table and prepare the bottle of wine. Easy-peasy. Besides, it’s always fun to try out something new. Cheers!


Chicken in yoghurt and saffron from Iran (Joojeh kebab) by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich as published in FT Weekend

Charcoal cooking is the most mouth-watering way to bring out the flavours of the Middle East

Joojeh chicken and yoghurt kebab © Patricia Niven
Joojeh chicken and yoghurt kebab © Patricia Niven

To make 4 skewers 
It may seem strange to grill the oranges with the chicken, but the oil released from the orange skin adds a lovely aroma and flavour to these simple and excellent kebabs. If you’d prefer to roast the chicken, we suggest slicing the orange and placing it on the bottom of a roasting tray as a bed and roasting in a hot oven (220C) for 15 minutes.


6 chicken thighs with the bone and skin removed
For the marinade
1 small peeled onion (150g)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 green chilli, seeds removed
2 tbs Ras el Hanout spice mix
2 tsp salt
½ tsp turmeric
Zest from 1 lemon
1 pinch saffron strands
1 tbs rosewater
80 ml water
200 g goat’s yoghurt
1 orange, with skin, cut into 8 wedges
Sprinkling of sea salt and crushed black pepper

Purée the onion, garlic and chilli together, or you can use a coarse grater to good effect. Mix with the rest of the marinade ingredients. Cut each chicken thigh into two and mix with the marinade; allow to marinate for at least an hour, and up to 24.

When ready, pile the marinated chicken and orange wedges on a skewer and place on the barbecue. Season generously with salt and pepper. Keep any remaining marinade to baste the chicken as it is roasting. You want to roast the skewers on a rather hot coal to caramelise the marinade and develop all the sweetness. They will take about 15 minutes to cook through. And when you flip them, make sure to brush them with some of the leftover marinade.

Serve with a small herb salad mixed with orange segments for a freshness that goes really well with this robust marinade.


Bon appetit!