Persian Inspired – Oven Baked Chicken Kebab with Saffron

This is an expensive meal. Because I am using saffron. Saffron is considered the most expensive spice in the world (according to Wikipedia, it’s about US$500 to US$5,000 per pound). But of course in cooking, we don’t use a handful of it. Usually just a pinch and it will give you beautiful colour. Else we will go bankrupt if we were to use a handful each time we cook.

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Come to think of it, saffron is handpicked by human and human only and the saffron stigmas are tiny. After picking, you need go through the separation process to separate the 3 stigmas from each flower. The amount of sweat and hard work that was put into it, jokingly, if I own a saffron farm, I would also make it the most expensive spice in the world.

Joke aside, saffron is used in Persian cuisine as well as other cuisine such as Spanish Paella. Mr. Paya introduced to me the Persian chicken kebab which is also known as “Joojeh Kebab” in Persian. Looking at the bright yellow grilled chicken, it will just make you salivate. Joojeh kebab is mainly marinated with very few key ingredients that are saffron (for the colour), lemon and onion. Of course salt and pepper too for the seasoning. Although it is marinated with only few ingredients, it is a challenge to make because you need to bring the best out from these few ingredients.

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You get to taste the combination of lemon and onion marinated in the chicken. The taste is divine. I don’t know how but somehow the lemon and onion just balance each other in marinating the chicken. The acidity of the lemon brings the spiciness down from onion and brings out the sweetness of the onion. Then you add salt and pepper. Voila, magic happens!

I use the meat from the chicken drumstick part because I always like the texture of the drumstick meat. Plus because I am not using a barbeque grill with high heat, using chicken parts like breast and bake for long in the oven will cause the meat to be dry.

Persian Inspired – Oven Baked Grilled Chicken with Saffron (Serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 1kg of chicken drumstick (meat off the bone, 630g)
  • 1.5 lemon, juiced
  • 1 medium sized onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of saffron, grind finely
  • 2 tablespoon of boiling water
  • For baking in the oven:
  • 3 tomatoes, slice 1 of them
  • 1 bread, sliced half, open face (suggesting Turkish bread)
  • For glazing the chicken pieces:
  • A pinch of saffron, grind finely
  • 1 tablespoon of boiling water
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter
  • For serving:
  • Serve with steamed basmathi rice
  • Half a lemon for extra acidity
  • 1 small onion

Steps:

  1. Combine saffron and boiling water in a cup, cover and set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the bone off the chicken, cut the meat into pieces (3 inches size).
  3. Put the chicken pieces into the sandwich bag.
  4. Pour the saffron and water mixture into the sandwich bag. Mix well and massage the chicken well. Seal the bag and put in the fridge for 1 hour. This process is to give a beautiful yellow colour coating to the chicken.
  5. After 1 hour, put in the sliced onion, vegetable oil, ground black pepper and salt to combine with the chicken. Mix and massage well. Put back into the fridge for another 7 hours to marinate.
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  6. Take the chicken out from the fridge 1 hour before baking so that the chicken can drop to room temperature.
  7. Preheat the oven at 220 degree Celsius for about 15 minutes.
  8. In the mean time, to prepare the glaze: Combine boiling water and saffron in a bowl. Cover and wait for 10 minutes. After that, put the butter into the bowl. Mix well with the saffron mixture.
  9. Place bread at the bottom of the baking tray. This bread works like a sponge to absorb all the juice from the chicken during the baking process.
  10. Place the sliced tomato surrounding the bread at the bottom of the baking tray.
  11. Place the wire roasting rack on top of the bread.
  12. Arrange the chicken pieces and the 2 tomatoes on the roasting rack.
  13. Glaze the chicken pieces and tomatoes with the glaze you prepared.
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  14. Place the baking tray in the oven on the top rack of the oven. We are going to bake this for about 20 minutes.
  15. After 10 minutes into baking, take out the chicken again for second glazing.
  16. At the last 5 minutes, take out the chicken for the last glazing and put back into the oven until done.
  17. Serve with rice. You could also slice some lemon to squeeze on the chicken in case you need a tat more of acidity. Oh and don’t forget the bread and I forgot to include in the photos. Sorry folks.
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