Spiedini Toscana
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    Serves 4 as a main course
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This recipe is dedicated to the Italian holidays many of us Brits enjoy each year. I love the Italians’ way of thinking when it comes to cooking, and I simply adore their food. Their philosophy is to grow fresh fruit and vegetables, eat them when they’re at their best and keep their recipes simple. They celebrate their own regions, they are patriotic and they believe their locality is the best. In this recipe, I’ve tried to capture this ethos and a little bit of their passion too.

The direct meaning of spiedini is cubes or balls of meat on a skewer, and it derives from the word spiedie which means ‘spit roast’. For my delicious take and version of spiedini, I’m using diced chicken thighs dipped in a garlic-infused lemon butter, which are then dipped in breadcrumbs laced with Parmesan cheese, parsley and lemon zest. After that, the chicken cubes are wrapped in wafer-thin slices of courgette, before cooking them. The chicken retains its moisture and the fresh lemon zest provides a zingy flavour for the taste buds to enjoy with every bite.

This dish shouts summer to me! I cook these spiedini over a coal barbecue and they’re truly delicious. You might think that the breadcrumbs will burn but they don’t, they become crispy and golden, and the courgettes act as a blanket and help to steam the chicken inside. You could alternatively cook the skewers in the oven, they’re just as delicious.Photo of Spiedini Toscana

Ingredients & Method

  • 500g free-range skinless, boneless chicken thigh fillets
  • 50g coarse fresh or Panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh oregano
  • finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 30g finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 courgettes, trimmed
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat the barbecue. I like to use a coal barbecue but gas barbecues work just as well. I tend to cook the chicken skewers over a cool barbecue, so if you are planning to barbecue other food, then I would suggest that you cook the chicken skewers towards the end once the coals have cooled slightly.

Cut the chicken thighs into large (3–4cm) dice and set aside. For the breadcrumb coating, put the breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, lemon zest and Parmesan cheese in a bowl and mix together. Set aside.

Put the butter and olive oil in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Dip each piece of chicken into the melted garlic butter, then roll in the breadcrumb mixture to coat completely, using your hands to press the breadcrumb mixture on firmly. Lay the chicken pieces on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and leave to rest in the fridge for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the courgettes lengthways into 2mm-thick slices or long ribbons using a mandoline.

Wrap each piece of breadcrumbed chicken in a courgette ribbon and gently roll up. Thread about 4 pieces of courgette-wrapped chicken on to each skewer (use metal or soaked wooden skewers); 1 skewer then makes a good portion. Cook the chicken skewers over a cool barbecue for 18–20 minutes or until cooked all the way through and golden brown all over, turning them regularly. Serve immediately with salads of your choice.

Cook’s Notes

Use chicken breast fillets instead of chicken thighs, if you prefer, as the crumb and courgette coating protects the chicken and you will still retain the meat’s moisture.

If you don’t have a barbecue, this recipe works just as well if cooked in the oven. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Place the chicken skewers on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and roast in the oven for 16–18 minutes or until cooked all the way through and golden brown all over, turning once.

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