When we lived in Christchurch our favourite haunt for Middle Eastern food was Sami's Cafe in Riccarton - always chicken shish tawook for my partner and falafel for me. You may say that we are creatures of habit, but I like to think that when you find something that seems as close to perfection as you can get, why would you choose anything else? And believe me when I tell you that Sami's falafel really are perfection - in fact if anyone knows where you can get better I'd like to hear about it. Not only is the food here great, but Sami himself is an absolute delight - it is so obvious when you watch him working that he pours so much love and pride into every single souvlaki he prepares - perhaps that's why they taste so good. Needless to say, whenever we revisit Christchurch these days, a meal at Sami's is always on the agenda. On one such recent visit Sami gave me a selection of their Sami's Kitchen range of spice blends to trial, and I'm enjoying experimenting with these (see note at the end of this post). There are four different blends in the range, each one prepared according to recipes that have been handed down through several generations of Sami's family, and all blends are free of gluten, wheat, MSG, and other fillers.
The first blend that I tried was the Shish Tawook, which I used to marinate some chicken pieces, which were then skewered and barbequed, and served with a peppery radish tzatziki and Chickpea, Feta & Coriander Salad which I shared with you a couple of weeks ago. This blend of spices includes, garlic, paprika, pimento, nutmeg, cinnamon and thyme, and the resulting kebabs (according to my partner) tasted just like the shish tawook that he enjoys at Sami's. The chicken once it came out of its marinade-bath was incredibly tender and the end result, although wonderfully flavourful, was not overtly spicy. It is likely therefore to appeal to a variety of palates, even those that might ordinarily eschew spicy foods or be wary of trying dishes that may be foreign to them. I think this could also work very well with a variety of seafood, especially shrimp, or as a rub to change up that Sunday evening roast chicken.
Hope you'll give this a try, and keep watching this space as I try out some of the other spice blends.
Chicken Shish Tawook with Radish Tzatziki Recipe
Makes 6 large kebabs
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
For the marinade:
2 tablespoons Shish Tawook spice blend
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, finely minced
flaky sea salt
For the kebabs:
500g chicken thighs
6 button mushrooms
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) squares
6 bay leaves, fresh
For the tzatziki:
2 cups Greek yoghurt (see note below)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
4-6 medium radish (depending on size), finely grated
handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Begin with the marinade. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the spices, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and sea salt.
Cut the chicken thighs into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes, and add to the marinade. Mix well until all the chicken pieces are thoroughly coated. Refrigerate at least 3-4 hours, preferably overnight.
Thread onto skewers as follows: begin with a piece of red pepper, then 3 or 4 cubes of chicken, mushroom, 3 or 4 more cubes of chicken, another piece of red pepper, and lastly a bay leaf (folded in half).
Barbeque or grill until the chicken is completely cooked through - about 15 minutes.
While the chicken is marinating, prepare the tzatziki. Put the yoghurt into a bowl; stir in the garlic, olive oil and lemon, and blend well. Add the grated radish, fresh mint, a generous pinch of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix well, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Note: If you are lucky enough to live in a place where you can get Greek yoghurt, then use it. Unfortunately, here in New Zealand, although there are a number of yoghurts on the market now labelled as "Greek-style", they are still not like a true Greek yoghurt. I find the best way to approximate it is to put the yoghurt into a sieve lined with a paper towel, place the sieve over a bowl, and refrigerate for several hours to allow the whey to drain off.