Only in Seattle would you buy a large sunshade for your deck, only to use it to keep the rain off you whilst you BBQ. Honestly, we have never used the sunshade to shade you from the sun, not that I can remember anyhow.
With spring on its way (first day of spring is next week.. I should know that, it is my mothers birthday… – Hi Mum, I haven’t forgotten!!) I have been rather impatient to lighten up my food a touch. OK, doing skewers on the BBQ might be going way too far into summer, but I don’t care these tasted great.
Walking around the market the other day I saw fresh English peas, sitting in their lovely little pods, and that got me thinking. I love peas. Really love em. And of course, as you all know, if you put “English” in front of ANYTHING, it just makes it better. So, pushing people out the way, kneeing small children out of my path, I headed for the peas. Loading up a bag with handfuls, not knowing what I was going to do with them felt great. Fresh peas always say “good weather” to me, even if it is pissing it down outside.
On the same venture to the market that day I saw haloumi cheese just sitting there, looking all pretty. Well I thought, that is a must too. What to do with cheese and peas.. Nope, not cheesy peas. As we all know, Haloumi is THE grilling cheese, so screw it I thought, I am doing skewers. Or kebabs as we Brits call them. That’s right.. Kebabs, not Kebobs. Kebab’s taste way better than Kebobs, for the reason listed above (OK, they don’t have English in the title, but just imagine it is there) 😀
So this was really a rather simple mid-week meal. The chicken is tossed in some great sweet smoked paprika, a little ground cumin and coriander seed, and some sea salt and pepper. These chunks of breast meat sitting lovingly next to some cubes of haloumi, some chunks of fennel and red bell pepper. All skewered on a very poncey looking rosemary skewer. Yep, you heard me right.. rosemary skewers. Our rosemary bush is out of control, so I decided to thin it a bit – no idea if now is the right time to do that or not, but it got a bit of a hack. The long strong stems I stripped of the rosemary leaves, all but the tip, sharpened the point, and made BBQ skewers out of them. This really does impart a subtle rosemary flavor to everything that is shafted on it. It also looks rather clever too, if I do say so myself.
And what to go with these little summer delights… Well, why not push it into summer even more with a great salsa verdi. This is really just a mix of a few herbs (basil, parsley and mint in this case), some pickles and capers, a little dijon mustard, some white wine vinegar and some olive oil. Chop it all together, and you honestly have summer in a bowl – all be it summer that is somewhat green in colour. This really goes great with just about any BBQ’d meat or seafood – or BBQ veggies too come to think about it.
And finally, what to do with the peas. We wanted to try Drake (our son) with some couscous, so I thought I might bung the peas in the couscous. Just like that it would be rather bland, so I added some sauteed serrano ham, a little basil and mint, and some lemon juice. What came out was a rather stellar side dish. Drake didn’t want it though. Course, he cannot talk yet, so we don’t know why!
If you are feeling the grey weather at the moment, have a go at these – a dead simple dish that comes together fast, and really brightened a rainy evening.
And finally a note on Paprika. Smoked sweet paprika is completely different to the bland regular paprika that you find in the supermarket. There is remarkable depth to this, and adds a wonderful subtle smokey flavor to foods. I have used it in broths for clams, and in rubs for meats. It is such a great export from Spain that the Spanish government actually controls its export.
Drake loved taking the peas out of the pod, and putting them in a bowl. He is really into copying his parents at the moment – he even helps Danika make cups of tea in the morning, by putting teabags in mugs. He liked the chicken too, but wasn’t impressed with couscous. We will have to work on him a bit!
Smoked Paprika Chicken and Haloumi rosemary skewers, salsa verdi, couscous with serrano ham and fresh English peas
1lb of chicken breast, cut into 2″ cubes
1 packet of haloumi, cut into 2″ cubes
2 bell peppers, core removed, pepper cut into 2″ square pieces
2 fennel bulbs, core removed, outer skins cut into squares
1 heaping teaspoon of smoked sweet paprika
1 pinch of cumin seed
1 pinch of coriander seed
a couple of black pepper corns
a pinch of sea salt
6 rosemary skewers (see note below)
1 handful of fresh parsley
1 handful of fresh basil
5 fresh mint leaves
2 dill pickles
1 small handful of capers
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1.5 teaspoons of white wine vinegar
really good olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup dried couscous
1 small shallot, finely sliced
2 slices of serrano ham – cut into small pieces
2 large handfuls of fresh English peas in their pods
a few basil leaves, chopped
a few mint leaves, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
The salsa verdi can be made a day in advance.
The rosemary skewers should be soaked in water for 15 minutes before using them – this will help stop them from burning. You could make the skewers up the night before you need them too, but the rosemary sprigs will dry out, and have a bigger risk of burning.
There are two kinds of smoked paprika, sweet and hot. Use sweet here, the hot will be far too overpowering.
If you wrap the end of the rosemary skewer (the leafy end) in foil, it will stop the leaves from burning when you grill the skewers.
Grind together the cumin, corriander, salt and pepper, using a pestle and mortar. Add in the smoked paprika, and grind it all until fine. Add a splash of olive oil, and mix to form a paste. Toss the chicken in this rub.
To make the rosemary skewers, simply remove all the rosemary leaves from a sprig – leaving about 1″ of leaves at the very tip. The easiest way to do this is to run your fingers down the sprig from tip to stem. All the leaves go flying off. Using a knife, sharpen the stem end of the sprig to make it easier to skewer the food on. Soak these in water for 15 minutes.
To make the skewers, just simply put whatever you want on a skewer. When adding the cheese on, be really careful as it can split pretty easily. You don’t want to waste any off it, it is just amazing grilled – really gooey in the middle. Brush the skewers with a little olive oil.
To make the salsa, simply chop the herbs, pickles and capers together. Pop in a bowl, add the dijon mustard and vinegar, and mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Add a little olive oil, and mix. It should have a slightly pasty consistency, certainly not swimming in oil. Add enough oil to get the texture that you want.
Fire up your BBQ. When it is nice and hot, rub the grill surface with a paper towel soaked in olive oil. Immediately add the skewers to the grill, and turn the heat down to low. Close the lid to help prevent flare ups. Wiping the grill with oil just before we use it is a great way to stop food from sticking.
These will take about 15 minutes to cook – you should turn them a few times during the cooking process, to get even browning. If you aren’t sure whether they are done, cut into a chicken piece that is in the middle of the skewer, and check if it is cooked through.
Make up the couscous as the skewers are grilling. Pod the peas, and boil them for about 8 minutes in plenty of water. Taste one, make sure it is JUST soft. Cook the couscous according to the package directions. In a stainless steel pan over a medium-high heat, add a little olive oil. Toss in the serrano ham and shallot. Keep them moving, and let them brown nicely. Remove from the heat and throw in the peas and couscous. Mix. Add in the fresh herbs and lemon juice, and serve alongside the salsa verdi and skewers.
Spring/Summer on a rainy day.