Grilled saffron chicken with lemon, chilli and mint

Grilled saffron chicken with lemon, chilli and mint

New Middle Eastern Food
Mark Roper

This is a slightly spiced-up version of a Persian favourite. To the standard saffron–lemon combination we’ve added a rather un-Persian touch of chilli and a mixture of dried and fresh mint. It’s a brilliant way to liven up what can sometimes be a bland white meat. Serve with a rice or couscous dish and creamy yoghurt dressing to take the edge off the chilli heat.


Quantity Ingredient
800g boneless free-range chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
sprigs watercress and wafer-thin slices of french radish, to serve (optional)
rice or couscous, flatbread and lemon wedges, to serve

Lemon, chilli and mint marinade

Quantity Ingredient
1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
2 long red chillies, finely chopped
1 dried red chilli, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
50ml olive oil
2 tablespoons Saffron chelow
2 lemons, grated zested and juiced
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
generous pinch dried mint

Yoghurt dressing

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
200ml thick natural yoghurt
squeeze lime juice


  1. Cut the chicken thighs into large chunks and put in a large bowl.
  2. Combine the marinade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and whiz to a paste. If you prefer, you could, of course, do this by hand using a mortar and pestle. Pour the marinade over the chicken pieces and toss to coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. To prepare the yoghurt dressing, heat the oil in a small frying pan and fry the garlic paste gently until soft but not browned. Stir in the turmeric and fry for 5 minutes then remove from the heat and cool briefly. Stir into the yoghurt with a squeeze of lime juice. Set aside until ready to serve.
  4. When ready to cook, preheat your barbecue or griller to high. Grill the chicken for 2–3 minutes on each side, or until lightly charred and good and sticky. Alternatively, you can cook it in a stove-top chargrill pan.
  5. Arrange the chicken pieces on a serving platter, garnish with watercress sprigs and radish wafers, if using, and serve with lots of yoghurt dressing.
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