The clocks went back (forward) last weekend, so I can finally come home in the evening and still have enough daylight to braai (barbecue) on a work night if the urge takes me. I knew the weather would be half-decent today, so I prepared some chicken kebabs, or as they’re called in Saffa Land, “sosaties”.
If you know anything about chicken sosaties, you’ll know that the best are made from deboned thighs, NOT breast. Chicken breast is all fine and well, but it has a tendency to dry out on a skewer. Thigh meat, however, will make the most succulent sosaties you’ve ever had and will be tastier to boot.
I felt for an Indian twist, so I made my take on a tikka marinade. Ideally, you should prepare the marinade the night before cooking to allow the spices to infuse into the meat overnight. Yoghurt is a typical ingredient in an authentic Indian tikka recipe, and it supposedly tenderises the meat too. I thought I read somewhere that there’s some enzyme in it that helps break down the meat proteins, but I could be talking absolute crap so probably best not to quote me. It does seem to work though, chicken or lamb that I’ve prepared this way has never turned out tough.
You’ll want to toast your cumin, coriander and cardamon pods in a dry frying pan over medium heat for a few minutes until they start to go lightly brown and aromatic. Toasting your spices allows the aromatic oils to be released more easily and will give your dish a better flavour. DO NO’T allow them to burn or they will taste acrid and your dish will be ruined. It’s always better to use whole spices whenever you can as they retain their aromatics far better than ground spices. If you have some dodgy old spice jars in your cupboard, chuck them away and buy fresh spices – you will thank me.
Put your freshly-toasted spices in a mortar and pestle and give the cardamon’s a quick pounding before removing the pods from the mortar, leaving only the seeds. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, shame on you. Go get one. Grind the contents of the mortar into a powder and then add the garlic, ginger, turmeric and salt. Grind this into a paste, you can add a little oil to make it easier if you like but make sure it’s a neutral-flavoured oil like sunflower or rapeseed.
Next, you want to rub your spice paste into the chicken. Really get it in there, you want it to reach right into the nooks and crannies of the chicken. Luckily this is really easy with deboned-thighs as they unroll easily. Don’t worry, they’ll be easy to put back together later. At this point, chuck them in a ziplock bag and add the yoghurt. Seal up the bag and use your fingers to mix the contents up well before popping in the fridge for at least one night.
When you’re ready to cook, get the fire going and make the kebabs. This is as simple as rolling the thighs back up and securing with two bamboo skewers. You could grill them at this point rather than braai them, but please don’t. They really taste so much better when cooked over coals!
I served them with pilau rice, as well as chutney and a cucumber raita of sorts. Yes, yes, I could make my own chutney but this was a week night dinner and I didn’t have time. Besides, Mrs Balls’ Original Recipe Chutney really is one of the finest things to come out of South Africa since Jacques Kallis. If you have never tried it before, do yourself a favour. A dash of lime juice and a sprinkling of fresh coriander makes for a very nice sambal to accompany this dish.