Saturday, 26 April 2014

Get the BBQ Out for a Turkish Night In! (Or the Grill or Griddle...)

The nights are getting warmer, and it's time to get the BBQ out and fire it up - whether it's for friends, or family, or just the two of you.

There are some foods just made for barbecuing. Many countries have their own versions of kebabs, and barbecued meats and fish and vegetables. Turkey is no exception, and cooking food over burning coals (as on a mangal) is a speciality.

And, bonus - it can be pretty healthy too, and you wouldn't even know it!

So I've put together a little collection of my Turkish recipes, for a tasty evening to share with friends or family - you can either scale down by half, warm up leftovers the next day, or freeze half of the meat uncooked for another time if the quantities are too large for you (the rice and hummus freeze well too). I've also included a shopping list below, as well as a key to what to prepare and when, to make it easy to put together.

If you're counting calories, then here's an example of how surprisingly few it adds up to per portion - you can eat everything pictured on the above plate for under 500 calories (and that's with full fat Greek yoghurt, and full fat organic lamb mince - so no compromise on flavour with dry, extra lean beef steak, either!) - and if you're not counting, you can have some nibbles beforehand, and go back for seconds! You could have just chicken skewers, or just lamb skewers with everything else and adjust the calorie count accordingly.

All in all, this is fantastic as either a healthy and delicious meal that's a real treat - or use the recipes the next time you get the BBQ out to entertain your friends, for something a little bit different and completely delicious! Click on the highlighted  text to go to each different recipe. [Calories in square brackets if you're counting]

Pitta crisps [77 calories]
Cucumber and carrot sticks [19]
Home-made hummus [78]
Total: 174 calories

The Main Event
1 chicken shish kebab skewer [76 calories]
1 lamb kofta/adana kebab skewer [133]
1 vegetable skewer [45]
1 small portion easy Turkish rice (1/8) [145]
1 portion tzatziki / cacik [54]
1 portion Turkish red cabbage salad [28]
Salad garnish (Per person, for example: couple shredded lettuce leaves [3], few slices cucumber [3], a little grated carrot [5], and 1/2 tomato sliced [6]) [17]
Total: 498 calories

Not bad, when you consider the creamy full fat Greek yoghurt dip, and juicy minced lamb rather than extra lean beef?

So, if you decide you'd like to make all of this for four - and I've given quantities for four for either chicken skewers, or lamb for six (which will give you extra lamb skewers, which are freezeable, or you can just make them a bit bigger for everyone if you're not counting calories!), so if you want both together, just halve the meat quantities, or even better, freeze half once you've marinaded them and put them onto soaked skewers for a fuss free meal next time. Here's what you'll need (I've split the groceries into the main event, and then the nibbles are below in case you just want to cater for one or the other):

Shopping list for the main event

Meat (choose mince or chicken)

  • 400g good quality full fat minced lamb (not lean, I used Sainsbury's SO organic) and
  • 250g good quality lean minced beef (again, I used Sainsbury's - all together this makes 12 small skewers)
  • 450g skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts (thighs every time for moistness and flavour, breasts for lean meat and lower calories - this makes 8 skewers)
OR make both and freeze half for next time

  • 20g butter
  • 250g Greek yoghurt (e.g. Total)

Vegetables, salad and fresh herbs
  • 1 lettuce (e.g. cos, romaine, for side salad)
  • 1/4 white cabbage (optional, to shred for side salad)
  • 1/4 red cabbage, white core cut off (approximately 225g)
  • 2 large carrots (for side salad)
  • 5-7 tomatoes (2-4 for side salad)
  • 3 onions (including one red for the vegetable skewers, if you like)
  • 6 garlic cloves (or more to taste)
  • 2 small green peppers (Turkish if you can get them), or 8-12 padron peppers
  • 1.5 cucumbers (half for side salad)
  • Juice of 2 lemons (about 6 tbsp) 
  • 1 teaspoon packed full of fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried, but fresh is best) [1]
  • 20g fresh flat leaf parsley leaves (large handful)
  • 10-15g fresh mint leaves (to taste, smaller handful)

  • 280g easy cook white rice (I use this, as it is the texture I'm familiar with being served, and less likely to stick or become over-cooked - the grains stay nice and separate and it's good to have easy sides that are unlikely to go wrong, however feel free to use any long grain rice - you can halve this quantity if everyone is having only a small portion)
  • 750ml hot chicken stock (I use Knorr Touch of Taste Chicken Bouillon to make mine)
  • 3 tbsp Turkish red pepper paste (this is quite fundamental to the flavour of the chicken marinade and the lamb kebabs - luckily it shouldn't be too hard to get hold of - I got my last jar from ASDA, which looks like this, and it keeps a while in the fridge/freezer. You can even make your own, or you could substitute some mild paprika, although it won't taste quite the same)
  • 4 pickled peppers from a jar (optional, e.g. Melis brand, plus extra to serve, if desired)
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • Oil spray
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Few pinches of za'atar (optional - Middle Eastern blend of dried herbs, sesame seeds and salt)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (or use hot chilli powder)
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • Quick grating of nutmeg
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fine sea salt to taste

  • Skewers - you'll need at least twelve (eight for the meat, four for the vegetables - and an extra four if you're doing the lamb - and twenty four if you're making everything and freezing half!)

  • You could also serve Turkish flatbreads, or pitta, for people to tuck the meat and some salad into and eat
  • [Turkish beer!!!]

Shopping list for the nibbles
Hummus, cucumber and carrot sticks and pitta crisps

  • 2 wholemeal pitta bread
  • Optional olive oil spray
  • Optional 'flavourings' for the pitta crisps - lemon zest, cumin seeds, chilli flakes and za'atar
  • 1 cucumber and 2-3 carrots cut into batons (sticks)
  • 240g cooked chickpeas (one 400g tin yields this)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (or more to taste)
  • Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp toasted ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil IF your tahini paste is not from toasted sesame seeds (optional - you can taste before adding this, it just adds the toasty, nutty flavour you get from toasted tahini paste)
  • 1 tsp good extra virgin olive oil (optional, as it's better to pour the olive oil over the hummus so the two compliment each other, see garnishes - but for a quantity of hummus without garnishes, this will give you a nice flavour, or add more to taste), plus extra to drizzle over, if desired
  • Cooking water from the chickpeas (or jar, if using jarred chickpeas - if using tinned, I'd probably rinse the chickpeas and use plain water, rather than the liquid from the tin)
  • Fine sea salt (or your favourite salt), to taste

Preparation and serving

The full recipes with individual ingredients and methods are in the links (highlighted in a different colour) within the body of this text, and also at the top in the list of dishes with calorie counts, you just need to click on them to open the links.

Prepare a day ahead

Soak the chickpeas if you're making your own hummus - my home-made hummus also freezes really well if you want to make it in advance. If you're using jarred or tinned chickpeas, you can make it on the day.

Optional prepare a day ahead, if you're entertaining and want it out of the way!

The night before, you can marinade the chicken for the chicken shish kebabs, and mix the minced lamb and beef together with the other ingredients for the lamb kofta / adana kebabs - you can even shape the meat and put it onto the skewers if you like.

The tzatziki / cacik, hummus and Turkish red cabbage salad will be good if made the night before, or on the day a couple of hours before serving, so that one is up to you.

You can also make the pitta crisps and store them in an airtight container, if you prefer to make them in advance.

A couple of hours before serving

If you haven't marinaded your chicken yet for the chicken shish kebabs, you need to get it marinading at least half an hour before you cook it, preferably two hours, and also it's good to make up the lamb kofta / adana kebabs and put them back in the fridge to chill on their skewers and let the flavours develop. You need to get your red cabbage and cucumber salting for half an hour to make the tzaziki / cacik and Turkish red cabbage salad, both of which will be happy to sit and develop their flavours; as will the hummus, if you make it a few hours in advance.

When you're good to go

Get the chicken on the skewers ready to cook and take the lamb skewers out of the fridge to come to room temperature. Make up your vegetable skewers ready to go. Chop up your side salad and arrange in a bowl. Toast your pitta crisps if you haven't made them in advance, and get your chosen cooking device for the skewers ready to go and pre-heat it. If you have issues with cooking space on your BBQ / grill / griddle, then put the oven on a really low setting to keep things warm while you cook everything.

Set out your table with all the chilled items and the pitta crisps and vegetable batons/sticks on it for people to help themselves to, get your Turkish rice on, and cook your skewers... and then enjoy!

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