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Grills & Roasts – Part 2


Moroccan-Spiced Roasted Chicken with Stuffed Onions

This roasted chicken is a great centerpiece for a special Sunday meal with friends. Marinating the chicken for a few hours in the spice rub before roasting it improves its flavor and texture.

PREP : 20 minutes
MARINATE : 2 hours
COOK : 1½ hours

  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons Greek-style plain yogurt, plus 3 tablespoons to serve (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes, plus 2 pinches
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 lemon, halved, plus grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1 (about 4½ pounds) ready-to-cook chicken
  • 8 small red onions, peeled
  • 5½ tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon sumac spice
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • pinch of pepper
  1. Grate two garlic cloves into a bowl. Add the yogurt, cumin, coriander, cayenne, turmeric, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and the ground and fresh gingers. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon and mix well.
  2. Put the chicken into a large roasting pan, and rub the spice mixture all over the skin and inside the cavity. Put the remaining garlic cloves and lemon half inside the chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  3. When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut a deep cross almost all the way through each onion. Put the butter, lemon zest, sumac, mint, and a pinch of salt in a bowl and mix well. Stuff each onion with the butter mixture, then place them alongside the chicken. Roast for 1½ hours, or until cooked through. To check the chicken is cooked, pierce the thickest part of the thigh with the tip of a sharp knife. Any juices should be piping hot and clear with no traces of red or pink. If the chicken is not cooked, return it to the oven for an additional 10 minutes and check again.
  4. Transfer the chicken and onions to a serving platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, put the roasting pan over medium heat and skim any excess fat off the liquid. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, then stir in the remaining yogurt, if using. Serve the chicken and onions with the gravy.

Cook’s tip : To further check that a whole chicken is cooked, gently pull the leg away from the body. It should “give” and no traces of pinkness or blood should remain.


Grilled Sardines Stuffed with Feta, Pine Nuts & Lemon

This combination of sweet and savory ingredients is popular in the Middle East. Here, the delicately herbed stuffing brings feta and pine nuts together with raisins and lemon. It complements the grilled sardines perfectly. You will need 24 toothpicks for this recipe.

PREP : 30 minutes
COOK : 6 minutes

  • 12 sardines, gutted and heads removed
  • ⅔ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ⅔ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons, plus 1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve (optional)
  • ⅔ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Butterfly the sardines and remove the backbones (see Cook’s tip, below).
  2. Place a skillet over low heat until hot. Add the pine nuts and toast for 5–6 minutes, or until golden, tossing halfway through. Let cool, then grind half the nuts in a mortar and pestle. Transfer them to a bowl, add the raisins, feta, lemon zest, parsley, whole pine nuts, salt, and pepper, and mix well.
  3. Spoon 2 teaspoons of the filling into the cavity of each butterflied sardine. Close each sardine like a book and secure, using a couple of toothpicks or a piece of string.
  4. Preheat the broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lay the filled sardines on the prepared sheet and drizzle with half the oil. Broil for 6 minutes, turning and drizzling with the remaining oil halfway through. Serve hot, with lemon wedges for squeezing over the fish, if using.

Cook’s tip : To butterfly a sardine, open out the gutted fish and lay it, skin side up, on your work surface. Hold the tail with one hand and firmly press along the backbone with the other until the fish is flat. Remove the head if this has not been done already. Turn the fish over and gently pull away the backbone, then cut it out. Remove any remaining small bones using tweezers.


Whole Spice-Crusted Red Snapper

This is a wonderful way to prepare whole fish. The spices aren’t overpowering, but have just the right amount of heat and flavor to complement the fish and give it a crisp crust that contrasts with its soft flesh. The recipe is easily scaled up if you’re cooking for more than two people. Serve with steamed vegetables or sea asparagus (also called sea beans).

PREP : 10 minutes
COOK : 20 minutes

  • 2 whole red snappers, scaled and gutted
  • grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, plus 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 3½ tablespoons dukkah spice
  • ⅔ cup ground almonds (almond meal)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large roasting pan with parchment paper and lay the fish on top.
  2. Mix together the lemon zest, dukkah spice, ground almonds, oil, cilantro, and salt in a bowl.
  3. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the mixture over one side of each fish, pressing it down gently to make a crust. Turn each fish over and spoon 2 tablespoons of the mixture on the other side. Put any remaining mixture in the cavities. Divide the lemon slices between the cavities.
  4. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily when pressed with a knife. Let rest for 2 minutes before serving hot.

Cook’s tip : When buying whole fish, look for bright and clear eyes, shiny skin, and bright red gills, and make sure it smells fresh. If the eyes are sunken and dull or it smells “fishy,” don’t buy it.


Za’atar-Spiced Turkey Schnitzel with Tahini Sauce

Turkey schnitzel is a popular Israeli dish. Here, spiced up with fragrant za’atar, it makes a satisfying dinner when served with a light salad. Try it in pita breads for lunch.

PREP : 20 minutes
COOK : 8 minutes

  • 2 heaping teaspoons za’atar spice, plus 2 pinches
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 pinches of sea salt flakes
  • ½ cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1 turkey breast (about 12 ounces), or 2 (6-ounce) turkey cutlets
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tahini sauce, to serve
  • ½ lemon, cut into wedges, to serve
  1. Mix 2 heaping teaspoons of za’atar, the flour, and a pinch of salt on a large plate and set aside. Pour the bread crumbs onto a separate plate. Crack the egg into a shallow bowl and whisk briefly.
  2. If using a whole turkey breast, butterfly it, then cut through so you have two thin cutlets.
  3. Place the turkey cutlets on a cutting board, spaced widely apart. Cover with plastic wrap, then bash each cutlet in turn, using a rolling pin, until it’s less than ¼ inch thick all over. It’s important to do this properly, because it tenderizes the meat and makes it quick to cook.
  4. Dip each turkey scallop first into the seasoned flour, then into the egg, and then into the bread crumbs.
  5. Line a plate with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium–high heat. Cook the first schnitzel for 2 minutes on each side, adding another tablespoon of oil to the pan halfway through cooking. To check if the turkey is cooked, cut into the schnitzel using a sharp knife. The meat should be cooked through and no longer pink. Transfer the schnitzel to the plate. Repeat with the second schnitzel.
  6. Serve the turkey schnitzels hot, each sprinkled with a pinch of salt and za’atar, with the tahini sauce and lemon wedges for squeezing over the top.

Cook’s tip : If you’re scaling up the recipe to cook for more than two people, preheat your oven to 125°F. Put each cooked schnitzel on a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining ones.

Authentic dishes from the Middle East

Rukmini Lyer