The origins of this dish come from Turkey and the Middle East, while the marinade is traditionally from the south east of Turkey, where they marinate meat in yoghurt, especially chicken. The yoghurt works exactly like lemon because of its high acidity, so the cultures make the meat softer, more mellow. Thus, anything you marinate in lemon, you can also do with yoghurt. What’s important is that you use chicken thigh fillets, some people go for the breast but I don’t understand it. Nobody in Turkey does because the fat is important for taste. Pastirma is a spiced cured beef. I’m not ultra nationalist when it comes to food, but yoghurt and pastirma are Turkish through and through.
- 250 ml (1 cup) natural yoghurt
- 125 ml (½ cup) capsicum paste
- 125 ml (½ cup) olive oil
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds, ground
- 1 tsp marash pepper or hot paprika
- 1 tsp fine sea salt flakes
- 8 chicken thigh fillets (about 170 g each), cut in half
- 100 g string haloumi (see Note)
- 200 g (1 cup) green lentils
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ½ tbsp capsicum paste
- 150 g pastirma (see Note)
- 10 g butter
- ½ tsp fine sea salt flakes
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Marinating time 6 hours
Combine the yoghurt, capsicum paste, olive oil, thyme, garlic, cumin, fenugreek, marash pepper and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add chicken and toss to combine. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours to marinate.
To prepare the green lentils, rinse the lentils under cold running water until water runs clear. Drain well and place in a medium saucepan. Add 500 ml water, vinegar and capsicum paste. Bring to the boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes or until tender (adding a little extra water if necessary). Once lentils are tender, drain well. Add the pastirma, butter, salt and pepper and toss to combine cover and set aside.
Preheat a barbecue to medium heat (charcoal kettle-style is best). Remove the chicken from marinade and thread onto large metal skewers. Brush with oil and grill, turning occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through.
Warm lentils and transfer to serving plates or platter, top with skewers, scatter over string cheese and serve hot.
• Pastirma and string haloumi are available from select Middle Eastern delicatessens and grocers.
Photography by Benito Martin. Food styling by Alice Storey. Prop styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Alice Storey & Georgina Larby.