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To date, I have steered clear of barbeque recipes because I think that people have definite ideas about what and how they want to cook on a fire. No need for instruction on hamburgers or steaks or ribs or chicken or grilled vegetables. However, in keeping with my objective of providing recipes that are both out-of-the-ordinary and simple-to-make, I can’t resist passing on a few that have probably never crossed your path: Two are from southern Africa and the third is a simple riff on tandoori chicken. All three start with a spicy marinade and, need I say, are out-of-the-ballpark winners.

shrimp

Peri-Peri Prawns

This is not a dish for the faint of heart: It’s spicy and messy but I can’t think of a tastier way to cook shrimp on the barbeque. It originated in Mozambique where the prawns (shrimp) are abundant and highly prized.  Apparently the peri peri pepper, a close relative of the Scotch bonnet, was brought there by the Portuguese centuries ago and over time it was decided that their flavor enhanced the local prawns.  Peri peri sauce, which could be described as fiery, is popular in Mozambique, in Portugal, and in South Africa, where it is served with both prawns and chicken.  You can make it using fresh Scotch bonnets but I find them too explosive, so for heat I prefer to use dried crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne, or my favorite standby, piment d’Espelette.  I usually make extra peri-peri because it keeps for a long time in the refrigerator and, if you like things hot, a spoon or two of it is delicious on just about anything.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1-1/2 lbs. large unpeeled shrimp, preferably with heads on 

For the peri-peri sauce:

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons of hot red pepper (flakes, cayenne, or piment d’Espelette, which is milder)

1 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup vegetable oil

Pound the garlic, salt and spices in a pestle and mortar until you have a paste.  Add the lemon juice and then gradually the oil.  Wash the shrimp and pat them dry. Save half of the marinade for later use and pour the rest of it over the shrimp, tossing them until completely covered.  Leave them for 2-3 hours, or longer if it suits you. 

Grill them on a hot barbeque for 1- 2 minutes a side, depending on their size.  You can thread them on skewers if you think it’ll make them easier to handle. 

When cooked, you need to peel the shrimp (and take off their heads if necessary) and eat them with your hands, adding a squeeze of lemon juice or dunking them in the extra peri-peri sauce if you really like it hot.  So have lemon quarters and paper towels ready.  In South Africa they are usually served with rice, in which case add a tablespoon or two of the leftover marinade to the rice.

tandoori

 

Mock Tandoori Chicken

There’s a lot that’s appealing about chicken marinated in yoghurt and curry spices then cooked on the barbeque.  It’s a great diet dish, super simple to make, and the yoghurt marinade acts as a tenderizer. While It’s not quite chicken done in a tandoori oven, it brings the exotic flavors of India straight to your back yard.  I generally use boneless, skinless breasts but you can use any part of the chicken you choose as long as you adjust the cooking time accordingly. I like to serve it on a salad bed of lettuce, tomato, cucumber, peppers and red onion, dressed lightly with a vinaigrette or oil and lemon.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of tendons and fatty bits

Marinade:

1 cup plain yoghurt (you can use low fat)

2 tablespoons good curry powder or garam masala

1 tablespoon grated ginger

1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds (optional)

1/2  teaspoon cayenne (optional, depending on whether your curry powder is hot or mild)

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

1 teaspoon salt

Mix the marinade ingredients well and pour them over the chicken breasts, turning them over and over until completely coated. Refrigerate for 2-3 hour at least or preferably overnight.  Drain the chicken, leaving a light coating of the yoghurt mixture.  Cook on a medium-hot barbeque, 5-7 minutes a side, depending on the size of the breasts.  Watch for burning, the yoghurt can blacken easily although a little black and crisp adds to the flavor.  Slice the chicken thinly and arrange it on your prepared salad.  If you have enough of the marinade left over, you can heat it up and pour it over the chicken.

 

Sosaties

lamb

 

This is another dish of Cape-Malay origin and could well be called the national dish of South Africa. Lamb is marinated for a few days in a sweet-sour curry mixture and then put on skewers with dried apricots and onions and grilled on the barbeque (or braai as it’s know in South Africa). Nowadays it is often made with chicken but I think that lamb is hands-down better.  Traditionally this is served with yellow rice but I prefer it with a salad, as in the tandoori chicken recipe above.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1-1/2 – 2 lbs leg or shoulder of lamb, cut in about 1″ cubes

1 dozen dried apricots, split in two if large

1/2 onion, cut into pieces to match the size of the lamb cubes

 For the marinade:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 onion, chopped fine

1 clove garlic, chopped fine

2 tablespoons curry powder (hot if you like)

1/2 cup vinegar (red, white or cider)

1/2 cup sugar, preferably brown

1/2 cup water

Salt

Make the marinade: Saute the onion in the oil until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and curry powder and stir until well mixed, another minute or two.  Add the vinegar, sugar, water and salt and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.  Let cool completely and then pour it over the lamb, apricots and onion, tossing them around until completely covered.  Cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 24 hours but up to 3 days, tossing the ingredients around once of twice.  Thread them onto skewers – piece of lamb, apricot, piece of lamb, onion, until all the ingredients are used up.  Grill over a hot charcoal fire 4-5 minutes a side until crisp on the outside but still pink inside.  Serve with a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and onion, either dressing it with oil and vinegar or boiling up the remaining marinade and pouring it over the veggies.

Each of the above dishes will make a delicious – and different – addition to your barbeque reportoire. 

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The thought of pickling fish is hardly something to make you salivate, but please don’t be put off by the name. It should be called Absoutely Delicious Cold Curried Fish. It’s perfect summer fare, keeps in the refrigerator for a week and is delightfully different. There are many South African dishes of Malay origin. Malays, mainly Javanese, were first brought to the Cape as slaves in the 17th century and were in time valued for their cooking skills. Cape Malay curries tend to be sweet-sour and are less spicy than their Indian cousins. You can serve pickled fish as a first course or as a main course with a salad such as the herbed potato salad in the previous blog and a plate of sliced tomatoes.

Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a first course

 Ingredients:

1 lb. firm thick fish filets, such as cod

1 tablespoon seasoned flour

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 medium onions, sliced fairly thinly

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tablespoon mild curry powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed

1/3 cup white wine vinegar (you can use red if it’s all you have)

1 tablespoon sugar

1/3 cup water

salt

3 bay or lemon leaves 

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional)

Cut the fish into approximately 2″ x 2″ chunks. Pat it dry and coat it lightly with the seasoned flour (I shake it gently in a plastic bag). Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan large enough to hold the fish in one layer. Fry the fish in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes a side, depending on its thickness. Do not overcook. Drain the fish on paper towels and allow to cool.

Make the sauce: Fry the onions in the remaining tablespoon of oil over low heat for five minutes then add the garlic, curry powder, turmeric and coriander, stirring the spices around for a few minutes to release their aromatic oils. Add the vinegar, sugar and water, bring to the boil and simmer the mixture gently for 10 minutes. Add salt and check that the vinegar-sugar ratio suits your taste. Let cool.  

Assemble the dish: Put half the sauce and the onions on the bottom of a dish that will hold the fish in one layer. Cover it with the fish and the remaining sauce and onions. Tuck the bay leaves in between and sprinkle with the optional cilantro. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two days, turning the fish over after a day. Serve each portion with some of the sauce and the onions. It will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week. 

This dish is unusual, delicious, and simple to make.  It can easily be expanded for a bigger table.

In West Africa, groundnut is the local name for peanut, and variations of this dish abound.  Some countries add veggies such as yams or cabbage, but I think this muddies the spicy peanut flavor.  It’s best made with thighs or legs which add to the richness of the sauce. You can use breasts, but you will need to shorten the cooking time by about half. Garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro. We like to serve it with rice so the sauce can shine through. We also add a simple salad of chopped tomatoes, red onion, and green pepper (roughly equal amounts of each), salt to taste, and and a bit of minced green chili.

West African Chicken Groundnut Stew

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients:

Vegetable oil (not olive)

4 chicken thighs (skinned, halved along the bone if large)

1 medium white onion, chopped fine

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled  and grated

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup canned tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 cup chicken stock (or a stock cube dissolved in a cup of water)

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped peanuts

Salt the chicken thighs and brown them in the oil on both sides, about five minutes.  Set aside.  Add the onions to the pan – use more oil if needed – and cook them until softened.  Add the garlic, ginger, cayenne and tomatoes.  Simmer until well blended.   Dissolve the peanut butter in the warmed chicken stock, add to the tomato mixture and bring to the boil.  Add the browned chicken pieces, then simmer gently for 45 minutes to an hour (about a half hour for breasts) until the chicken is cooked but not falling off the bone. Garnish with the cilantro and chopped peanuts and serve with plain boiled rice and the optional salad.