What to Cook: Marinated Chicken with Charred Limes, Saffron Butter and Flatbreads

Marinated Chicken with Charred Limes, Saffron Butter and Soft Flatbreads

Sally Butcher and her husband Jamshid kindly talked me through this recipe, which is a Middle Eastern classic. Poussin are skinned, cut up and left to sit in a bath of lime juice for 24 hours, before they are grilled or barbecued, basted all the while with saffron butter. Persians normally use a concentrated bottled juice for this which is seriously sherbety and a bit of an acquired taste. Use this or a regular bottled sort - or if you can find a use for zest use around 12-15 large limes.

Serves 4

1 chicken (or 2 poussin), each cut into 10 pieces, skin on
a large pinch of saffron strands
1 tbsp boiling water
100g butter
1 garlic clove, crushed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the marinade
a large pinch of saffron strands
1 tbsp boiling water
250ml lime juice (or sour orange or lemon)
1 onion, coarsely grated


For the cucumber and yoghurt sauce
200ml yoghurt
a handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
? cucumber, peeled, halved lengthways, deseeded, grated and drained
a pinch of sugar

To serve
4 limes, halved
soft flatbreads
flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Lime-Pickled Red Onions (see recipe below)

Put the chicken in a refrigerator-friendly receptacle. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Using a pestle and mortar, grind the saffron for the marinade with a pinch of salt and mix with the boiling water. Add to the citrus juice and pour the lot over the chicken or poussins, along with the onion. Refrigerate and marinate overnight.

The next day, either get your barbecue ready or heat your oven to its highest temperature. Grind and soak the saffron in the boiling water, as before, and put it in a saucepan with the butter and garlic. Melt together.

Drain and pat dry the chicken pieces then either arrange over your barbecue or a baking tray. Baste with the butter and cook for 10 minutes. Baste again, cook for a further 10 minutes, then repeat. By this time the chicken should be cooked through and nicely browned and blistered. Reheat any remaining butter.

Put the limes on the barbecue or on a griddle pan for a couple of minutes.


Mix the yoghurt with the mint and grated cucumber, and season with salt and a pinch of sugar.

To serve, warm through the flatbreads. Serve the chicken torn from the bone and piled into flatbreads with the yoghurt, any leftover basting butter, parsley, pickled onions and squeezes of the charred limes.

Lime-Pickled Red Onions

These are unbelievably quick and easy and keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

1 large red onion, thinly sliced
100ml lime juice
1 tsp salt
a few cracked peppercorns

To serve
freshly chopped herbs, such as coriander or parsley
1 tsp sumac

Put the onions in a bowl and pour over freshly boiled water to cover. Leave to stand for 20 seconds, then drain.


In a small bowl, mix the lime juice with the salt. Pour over the onions, add the peppercorns and stir to combine.

If serving straight away, leave to stand for at least 30 minutes. Otherwise, transfer to a sterilised jar and store in the refrigerator until needed.

To serve, add the fresh herbs (choose whichever matches the dish you are serving it with) and a sprinkling of sumac.

Extracted from Citrus: Recipes that Celebrate the Sour and the Sweet by Catherine Phipps (Quadrille, approx €23). Photography by Mowie Kay.

The image newsletter