My low carb barbequed chicken with Italian peperonata and avocado salsa will leave you a pleasant memory of summer as it draws to an end.
Who doesn’t like a barbeque? There is something truly summer-y and holiday-y about lighting up the fuel and cooking some meat and vegetables outside in the sunshine. From the smoke filled air, to that smell of cooking meat, you cannot help but salivate as your senses prepare for a feast. I’m not a huge meat lover, but even I get excited about the irresistible aroma of a barbeque.
So why not enjoy my last barbeque before I pack up and head back to the UK for winter hibernation? Here in Veneto, November has been veeeeery kind, by gifting us around 21°C, a beautiful blue sky and lovely warm sunshine, every-single-day so far. Yes temperatures have been diving at dusk, but during the day you’d never think there are less than 2 months till Christmas!
Good meat doesn’t need anything added to it
My husband is obsessed with marinating every single bit of meat before putting it on the grill, but I rather enjoy tasting meat when I eat meat, rather than spices and added flavours. Perhaps it’s because I was taught by Italians that when you barbeque good meat you only have to add salt, and if you have to make it tasty by adding flavourings and spices, it is bad meat. True to those words, all Italians I have ever met literally unwrap their pork, chicken, beef or whatever they got from the butcher’s, and throw it on their barbeque, Bear Grylls style! And every Italian barbeque feast I have been to has been amazing.
It wasn’t difficult for me to decide what to do to celebrate my last barbeque. Chicken is by far my favourite meat, but I will only buy outdoor-reared, grass and corn-fed chicken, that is not intensively reared, not fed chemical feeds and not pumped with growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics. Not fussy, am I?
I nearly changed my mind when I got to the butcher’s. Lots of lovely poultry on offer, all organic, grass-fed, GMO-free, local and fresh. Hens, capons, chickens, guineafowls, turkeys. They all looked amazing, and the turkey in particular was beckoning me. But no. Turkey is waaaay too low in fat for my keto lifestyle. I stuck with a chicken that was plump and inviting. I told the polite young chap behind the counter that I only wanted the thighs and drumsticks and that they were for a barbeque. No problemo! He also offered to ‘open’ them up for me. He then proceeded to expertly make cuts along the bones so as to spread out the meat, achieving a flattened result. This was going to make the chicken easier and quicker to barbeque and to ensure even cooking.
I literally unwrapped them, sprinkled coarse Himalayan pink salt on both sides and under the skin and I was ready to roll! Why coarse salt? Because coarse salt adds flavour to the meat whilst cooking and doesn’t get absorbed by the meat fibres. Fine salt, on the other hand, will get absorbed and make the meat tough and dry. NEVER use fine salt on meat before or during cooking. You can of course add it just before serving.
Real wood: the most natural way to barbecue
In Italy we have a brick-built Turkish-style barbecue (my husband’s idea), but we hardly ever cook skewered meat chunks, as more often than not we choose larger cuts of meat that require a grill. So I placed my chicken onto the grill, locked it in and rested it on the side while I fired up the wood.
The majority of people tend to use charcoal or briquettes, but being a purist I prefer natural wood as it imparts a distinctive wood smoke flavour to any meat you cook. Last year I felled a fig tree that had reached ginormous proportions and had become a real nuisance. Every August, tons of figs dropped on the ground at the rear of the house, close to our much used veranda, attracting gazillions of wasps! I was truly glad to see it go! As a bonus, I was able to chop up most of the wood and store it for barbeques. I think we’ll have enough for the next 10 years! If you can get hard wood I strongly recommend you give it a go. Of course it needs to be dry, not freshly cut and cannot be soft wood or treated wood. Despite what you might read on the internet, raw wood logs are easy to light and don’t need soaking or other preparation. They are a much healthier alternative to charcoal or briquettes, which contain fillers and who-knows-what poisonous elements are added. Raw wood burns easily and yes, it does produce quite a bit of smoke, but it is natural smoke and you will be outside anyway. Just make sure you don’t light up your barbecue right next to your neighbour’s bedroom window!
Whilst waiting for the logs to burn I started making my peperonata, which is a traditional Italian side dish of sweet peppers cooked in garlic, onion and tomato sauce. A great accompaniment for chicken.
With the peperonata simmering away, my wood logs had turned to incandescent ash and I positioned my chicken above it. Sadly, as you can see from the photo below, I forgot to ‘heat test’ and put the chicken on too soon, charring it on one side. Oh well. I never claimed to be a grill master. I just didn’t eat the blackened bits.
And I can tell you my last barbeque of 2015 was truly a success. Apart from those few burned bits of skin, which I discarded, it was moist, the flavour was amazing and I savoured every morsel. No need for spices. No need for marinades. Just chicken. Simplicity at its best.
And the sweetness of the peperonata was a perfect contrast for the smoky chicken. My peperonata uses quite a bit of cinnamon. Cinnamon is one of my favourite spices: it adds depth of flavour to both favourite and sweet dishes and it’s health benefits are astounding.
I also served my avocado salsa on the side, in case the chicken was too dry…. I needn’t have bothered!
I hope you enjoy this low carb meal too!
- 2 chicken 'quarters' (leg and thigh)
- coarse himalayan pink salt
- 2 large sweet peppers
- 250g chopped or sieved tomatoes
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- a sprinkle of organic broth granules
- fine himalayan pink salt
- a sprinkle of black pepper
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp paprika
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 ripe avocado
- juice of 1 lemon
- black pepper
- organic raw extra virgin coconut oil
- sprinkle coarse salt all over and under chicken skin.
- barbeque until cooked.
- put a splash of olive oil in a large saucepan.
- add chopped and de-seeded peppers, tomatoes, shallot, garlic, broth granules, salt, pepper and spices.
- cook on low heat until very soft, then add a tablespoon of coconut oil and stir.
- mash up the avocado and put it in your blender.
- add a teaspoon of coconut oil, salt, black pepper and paprika.
- blend on full power until smooth and creamy.
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