The Most Succulent Grilled Chicken + Video 🔥
Fire up the grill, Lagos-style with Suya Grilled Chicken & Coconut Rice
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What is it about summer that compels us to whip out the barbecue, griddle pans and whatever fiery apparatus that can be conjured for charred cooking? Bearing in mind the luxury of cooking outdoors is one we cannot all afford, this recipe, adapted from one I created for Great British Chefs, was perfected indoors with my trusted griddle pan. In Nigeria, the mai suya - grill masters, typically of Northern descent, are known for cooking delicate slabs of peanut, ginger, and chilli spiced meat over fire. They migrated with this prized dish from the Hausa north of Nigeria to the rest of the country and beyond the Sahel and Savanna regions.
I grew up between two continents, Europe and Africa, so my concept of seasons and the weather are in constant collision. I mainly observe summer, autumn (fall) and winter when in the UK or Europe, while in Africa, seasonal choices and inspiration are ruled by many variants, most importantly, the foods that are in season. In Lagos, to be precise, the weather is either sweltering hot or rapturously rainy, neither of which particularly restricts any particular form of cooking or feasting. This duo of recipes is wonderful, come rain or shine, taking me back to some of my best memories of devouring my mother's fragrant coconut rice, bejewelled with sweet vegetables and the many days spent hunting the best suya in town. Whether you are grilling indoors or outdoors, the layers of flavours and textures in these Nigerian favourites are a marvel. As usual, in my cook’s tips below, you will find ideas for using the nutty suya marinade with other meats and with plants such as aubergines. Although suya is typically served with raw wedges of tomato and onions accompanying the grilled meats, I prefer them with a quick burst of heat, skins charred.
What are your favourite foods to grill?
Uda (grains of selim), the traditional name (from my mother’s Ibo tribe in the South West of Nigeria) of this bewitchingly smoky and woody spice, is used in everything from sumptuous soups to healing broths, and spice rubs. And not just in Nigeria, but in Ghana, Ethiopia and across the continent. I enjoy finding new ways to enjoy its captivating aroma. Here the pods are used to infuse the coconut broth and also added to the heady peanut-based suya spice rub. In my opinion, there isn’t a like-for-like substitute for this spice and I implore you to try to get your hands on some. If I must suggest an alternative spice for woody and smoky flavours, my second favourite would be black cardamon pods. But you are here to discover African foods arent you? In my new cookbook Africana, I delve deeper into such spices. Within you will find the most traditional suya recipe which I perfected after years of trying so many across Nigeria and beyond, grilling as many suya masters as possible for the perfect recipe.
THE BIG SECRET
I use the coconut milk, uda pods, cumin and coriander seeds to create the most aromatic broth, in which I lightly poach the chicken for tenderness before grilling, subsequently finishing off the rice in the spiced, chicken and coconut broth. When cooking many other grains, spuds and vegetables, I love to employ this or similar techniques. Instead of using good old water, I cook with a good stock, spices and or coconut milk for maximising flavour. For the suya, I finish off the chicken with a heavy coating of crushed peanuts, spices and an extra lashing of coconut oil. You can do the same or finish off under an oven grill or on the barbecue. The mission here is to seal in all those juices and flavours while creating a lovely char on the outside. Now, all that is left to do is to try this at home, for dinner, an alfresco summer feast, the choice is yours. I have also popped the video recipe for you below. Enjoy!
Suya Grilled Chicken & Coconut Rice
Feeds up to 4
Time: 60 minutes
For the coconut rice
200g/1 cup of easy-cook basmati rice
1 tbsp of coconut oil
1 onion, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp of ginger, freshly grated
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tbsp of curry powder
1 bay leaf
400 ml / 13.5 oz of coconut milk
2 uda pods, crushed
1 tsp sea salt
3 small carrots, chopped into small cubes
150 g / 1 cup of green beans, trimmed and quartered
3 spring onions, chopped
For the grilled suya
600 g / 21 oz chicken thighs, free-range, skinless & boneless
1 tsp sea salt
150 g / 1 cup of blanched peanuts, to be roasted
5 uda pods
1 tbsp of garlic powder
1 tbsp of ground ginger
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tbsp of coconut oil
2 beef tomatoes, halved or quartered
2 red onions, quartered
Let’s get cooking
Prepare a broth for the chicken and coconut rice by heating a tablespoon of coconut oil in a wide saucepan. Add the sliced onion and cook over medium heat until softened, then add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 minutes.
Lightly toast the whole seeds in a hot dry frying pan for a minute or until darker in colour, then crush with a pestle and mortar and add to the onions. Add the curry powder and stir.
Throw in the bay leaf, coconut milk, crushed uda pods and sea salt. Stir well, bring the broth to a boil and add the chicken thighs. Reduce heat to low, cover and poach for 5 minutes.
Remove the uda pod and poached chicken from the broth with a slotted spoon and place it in a colander to drain.
For the coconut rice, rinse the rice, drain well and add to the coconut broth. Cook tightly covered over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the chopped carrots and green beans, then cook for a further 5 minutes
Check the rice for doneness and, if needed, add 100–200ml of water at a time. Continue to cook until the rice is tender. Once cooked, sprinkle with chopped spring onions and fluff the rice with a fork
For the suya, dry roast the peanuts in a hot frying pan until golden then crush into a fine powder using a pestle and mortar or food processor. Transfer to a muslin cloth and squeeze out as much oil as possible, until you are left with a cakey peanut residue
Crush the uda pods as finely as possible, separating and discarding the coarse bark. Mix the peanuts and crushed uda pods with the garlic, ginger and chilli powder, then season with sea salt. Save a tablespoon or two of the suya spices for garnish, and use the rest to coat both sides of the poached chicken thighs
Heat a grill or griddle pan until smoking hot. Brush the chicken on both sides with coconut oil and grill for 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Once cooked, remove the chicken from the grill and leave it to rest. Place the beef tomatoes and onions on the grill until slightly charred.
Slice the grilled chicken into thin strips and serve with the coconut rice, char-grilled onions and tomatoes and a sprinkling of the reserved suya spices, just like you would get on the bustling streets of Lagos.
Plant-based Substitute - To cook this with aubergines, simply slice into 2 cm circles or strips. Brush with coconut oil and sprinkle the spice blend all over before grilling.
Rice -Because I used easy cook basmati rice which has been parboiled, it look less time and less liquid to cook the coconut rice. Do keep that in mind when you choose your rice. I really love coconut rice and fried rice with brown basmati. This nuttier heartier rice tastes wonderful especially after soaking up the fragrant coconut broth. Brown basmati may take a little longer than white basmati, but it also cooks a lot quicker than long grain brown rice.
Peanuts - You know I love to roast nuts at home, but you don’t always have to be a busy body like me. If you have ready roasted unsalted nuts, these will do just fine. But nothing is better than roasting your own.
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