Aika Levins’ recipes for a hybrid Japanese/Middle Eastern barbecue | Food

AAt home, I almost always prefer to cook something easy and invariably turn to the comforting Japanese flavors of my childhood. Since I started working at Barbary in London, however, I often find myself incorporating wood-fired cuisine and flavors from the Middle East and North Africa. These are the kind of dishes I make at home for an impromptu barbecue; simple dishes that pack a punch, but with minimal prep, so you can spend more time with your guests.

Glazed chicken skewers

These are also good with a meaty fish (monkfish works particularly well), or replace the chicken with king oyster mushrooms and use a vegetarian mushroom sauce instead of the oyster sauce. You can also cook the skewers in a grill pan on the hob for three to four minutes per side, browning them frequently as in the method below.

Preparation 15 minutes
To cook 15 minutes
Makes 12 skewers

400g boneless skinless chicken thighs
Salt and white pepper
1 bunch spring onionstrimmed and cut into 2cm lengths, green stems reserved and thinly sliced ​​for garnish
ml oyster sauce
ml pomegranate molasses
ml rice vinegar

Cut the chicken into approximately 2cm cubes and season lightly with salt and white pepper. Thread 12 skewers, alternating the chicken pieces with the spring onions.

For the glaze, combine the oyster sauce, pomegranate molasses and rice vinegar.

Grill the skewers over medium-high heat for three to four minutes on each side, browning after the first turn (a pastry brush is useful here). Continue turning and basting the skewers for about a minute, until the chicken is cooked through and has a lacquered glaze. Remove from grill and serve garnished with thinly sliced ​​spring onions, if desired.

Sesame Seaweed Flatbreads

These quick flatbreads don’t require yeast, making them an ideal side dish for any meal. I like to use a mix of white and black sesame seeds for color and texture, but you can easily play around with the flavors, depending on what you’re serving them with. Breads can also be pan-fried on the hob.

Preparation 15 minutes
To cook 10 minutes
Makes 6

350g self-rising flourplus a little extra for dusting
½ teaspoon fine salt
½ soup baking powder
20g black and/or white sesame seeds
2 sheets nori seaweed, crushed (tear into small pieces, then rub between your palms, or blitz briefly)
350ml natural yogurt
Toasted sesame oilfinally (optional)

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, sesame seeds and nori in a bowl. Add yogurt and mix until just combined; you’re not trying to develop the gluten, so be careful not to overwork the mixture or the dough might be tough.

Divide the dough into six equal portions and roll each into a circle about ¾ cm thick. Grill on the barbecue over medium heat until lightly charred and cooked through. If desired, brush with toasted sesame oil to finish.

Salad of crushed cucumbers and radishes on tahini

Smashing vegetables is a Chinese technique that not only breaks them up into bite-size pieces, but also bruises them, so they absorb dressing better and gives them rough, jagged edges that help catch the sauce. Use rice vinegar if you can’t find Chinkiang black vinegar, which is widely available in Asian grocery stores.

Preparation 30 minutes
Marinate 30 mins+
Serves 4

100g tahini
A squeeze of lemon
1 large
250g radishes
40ml soya sauce
40 ml Chinkiang black vinegaror rice vinegar
½ teaspoon caster sugar
1 small clove garlicpeeled and finely grated
Crispy chilli oil

To make the sauce, put the tahini in a bowl and stir in 70ml of water and a squeeze of lemon. At first you will feel like you made a mistake, but as you start incorporating the water into the tahini it will form a thick sauce. Season to taste with salt and refrigerate.

Cut the cucumber into lengths of about 4 cm and tap them lightly with a rolling pin to break them into pieces. You may need to break the pieces up a little more by tearing them into smaller pieces by hand. Give radishes the same treatment by breaking them in half with the rolling pin.

In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, black vinegar, sugar and garlic, then add the cucumber and radishes, and toss to coat well. Leave to marinate for about 30 minutes (or even a few hours), stirring occasionally.

To serve, spread tahini sauce on a plate and top with cucumber and radishes, leaving most of the marinade liquor. Drizzle with as much crispy chili as you dare and serve.

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