I became the family cook at 11 years old, because my mum and grandmother couldn’t cook for toffee! My food style now is best summed up as ‘lazy’. I work stupid hours, but I always like to eat simple dishes that aren’t labour intensive.
I love whacking things together and coming up with interesting food – the less you treat good ingredients, the more natural they taste. I’m all about need and speed, and a lot of my recipes are born out of me just chucking stuff together. That’s really how I learned to cook, and my Saffron & Lemon Chicken Joojeh Kabab is perhaps one of the best examples of this I can give.
This probably features on the menu of every Persian restaurant in the world, and for me what really makes it special is the way in which the chicken is marinated in yoghurt and lemon juice, which breaks down the fibres and tenderises the meat beautifully. The addition of saffron and onions creates the signature flavour that makes this a much-loved dish. This is my simplified version of the recipe, which can be made at home in a conventional oven if, like me, you don’t have a barbecue or flame grill.
- Four onions, cut in half and thinly sliced into half moons
- The juice of five lemons
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 400g (14oz) Greek yogurt
- 3 tbsp crushed sea salt
- A generous pinch of saffron threads
- 3 tbsp boiling water
- Six large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 5cm (2in) pieces
Put the onions, lemon juice, olive oil, turmeric, yogurt and sea salt into a large mixing bowl and mix well. Using a pestle and mortar, grind the saffron to a powder, then pour over the boiling water and leave to infuse for 5–10 minutes.
Add the chicken to the mixing bowl. Mix well to evenly coat the chicken pieces in the yogurt, then add the saffron water to the bowl and mix thoroughly.
Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave the chicken in the refrigerator to marinate for a minimum of an hour or preferably overnight. Once the chicken has been marinated, preheat the oven or grill to the highest setting possible. Line a large baking sheet with non-stick baking paper.
Remove each piece of chicken from the marinade using a slotted spoon. Lay out all the pieces of chicken on the prepared baking sheet and bake or grill for 18–20 minutes maximum, or until the pieces have slightly charred edges but remain beautifully moist on the insides. Serve with flour tortilla wraps or basmati rice with a little salad and some yogurt.