Stuffed chicken and turkey meatballs: Genevieve Taylor’s barbecued poultry recipes

Our most popular meat by far, poultry is an excellent choice for the barbecue (a plea, though, to seek out the best you can afford, because no other meat has been commodified more by factory farming than the birds for our tables). As a general rule, birds are always better cooked indirectly, away from the fierce heat of the fire, and taking things more gently and for longer. Rushing the cooking and burning the outside risks a still-raw inside that is never going to bring you the best eating. To that end, a temperature probe is a very useful tool – we have such an innate fear of undercooked poultry that we often go in the opposite direction and end up with dry results; a probe will give you confidence that it’s done just right.

Here, chicken legs are part-boned (just the thigh bit), so you can fill them with a tasty stuffing. This does make turning them on the grill a little delicate, so if you have a fish cage, lining them up in that will keep them a bit more secure. If not, just be extra generous with the cocktail sticks to pin them shut – you’ll need 12-16 in total.

Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 30 min
Serves 4

50g shelled pistachios
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
A pinch of chilli flakes
(optional)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion
, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
50g dried apricots, finely chopped
A few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
A few sprigs of dill, chopped
4 chicken legs
Flaked sea salt and
black pepper

For the salad
1 small fennel bulb (about 200g), trimmed and thinly sliced
2 heads of red chicory (endive), thinly sliced
100g radishes, thinly sliced
A really generous handful of soft fresh herbs (I used dill, parsley and coriander), chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
A pinch of sugar
, to taste

Toast the pistachios in a small frying pan on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, then tip out on to a board, finely chop and put in a medium bowl. Toast the cumin, coriander and chilli flakes, if using, in the same pan for a minute, tip into a mortar, roughly crush and add to the nut bowl.

Pour the olive oil into the pan, set it back over a low heat, then gently sweat the onion, stirring often, for a good 15–20 minutes, until well softened. Add the garlic, stir briefly, then tip into the nut and spice mix. Add the chopped apricots and herbs, season well and leave to cool while you prepare the chicken legs.

Put one leg skin side down on a board. With a small, sharp knife, make an incision down the thigh bone to the joint where it meets the drumstick. Use the tip of the knife to scrape the meat away from the bone, working from the top of the thigh down, then cut through the joint. Pull out and discard the thigh bone (or save it for stock), leaving the drumstick bone in place, then cut a pocket in the deepest part of the thigh meat to open it out a little – this will let you fit more stuffing inside. Repeat with the other three legs.

Spoon some of the apricot mix into each pocket, wrap the meat around the filling, then snugly pin each leg back together with three or four cocktail sticks.

Fire up the barbecue ready for indirect grilling . Lay the chicken skin side down on the grill bars away from the fire and cook indirectly for about 40 minutes, rotating them once or twice so they cook evenly. Use a meat probe to check for doneness – chicken is technically safe at 74C, but I think legs benefit from being taken beyond that, to 85C or so.

Toss all the salad ingredients in a bowl and serve alongside the cooked chicken.

The meatballs benefit from a little chill in the fridge to set them firmly on to the skewers. You’ll also need four to six metal skewers.

Prep 15 min
Chill 1 hr+
Cook 1 hr
Serves 4–6

2 tbsp fennel seeds
500g
turkey mince
1–2 tsp smoked paprika, to taste
1 fat garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Salt and black pepper
1 courgette
, cut into 1cm-thick discs
Olive oil, for drizzling

For the fennel
4 tbsp olive oil
2 medium fennel bulbs
(about 500g), cut through the root into thin wedges
1 red onion, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
2 x 400g
tins borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
Juice of 2 lemons
100g
butter, diced
A good handful of dill, chopped

Toast the fennel seeds for a couple of minutes in a small frying pan set over a medium heat. Transfer to a mortar, grind, then tip into a bowl. Add the turkey, paprika, garlic, a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, then mix really well with your hands – this will make the mix sticky and help it cling to the skewers. Divide into golf ball-sized pieces and roll firmly, putting the meatballs on a baking sheet as you go.

When you have shaped all the meatballs, thread them and the courgette discs alternately on to skewers, then shape the meatballs a little more, so they’re roughly the same diameter as the courgettes. Put the skewers on a baking sheet and chill for an hour or two; longer (up to 24 hours) wouldn’t hurt, should you want to get ahead.

When you are ready to cook, fire up the barbecue ready for direct and indirect grilling. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over the fennel wedges, season with a little salt and pepper, then grill over a direct heat for a few minutes on each side, until lightly charred. Transfer to a plate.

Set a large, deep, fireproof frying pan or roasting tin on the grill bars directly over the fire, and pour in another couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion, stir briefly, then shut the barbecue lid and leave to fry for about 15 minutes or so, depending on how hot your coals are, until soft and lightly golden (if they catch too quickly, simply slide the pan further away from the hot coals). Add the charred fennel wedges, garlic and chilli flakes, if using, to the onions, fry for a minute or two, then stir in 250ml water, cover with a sheet of foil and shut the barbecue lid again. Simmer for 10 minutes, until the fennel is softening but still a bit al dente, then remove the foil and stir in the beans, lemon juice, butter and most of the dill (save a little for garnish). Slide the pan over the indirect fire to simmer gently while you grill the meatball skewers.

Drizzle a little oil over each skewer and lay them on the grill bars directly over the fire. Cook, turning regularly, for 15 minutes, until a probe inserted deep into one of the meatballs reads 74C (cooking them with the lid down when you are not turning the skewers will increase the efficiency of the fire). Rest the cooked skewers over the pan of fennel and beans, and scatter on the remaining dill just before serving.

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