The Proven Platter: An Afghan summer barbeque

This month’s Proven Platter recipe is a Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebab. Recruit friends to bring along the rest of the recipes for a complete meal.

By Linda McElroy

Serves: 6
Approximate time – 2 hours (plus 1 day to marinate)
Difficulty rating – Easy

When I realized that in the month of August our program would be focusing on Afghan cuisine my first thought was “Can anyone say kebab?” (Editor’s Note: Kebob — a term most of us are more familiar with — is little more than a westernized version of kebab.) So I’ve put together a delicious and easy summer menu with the main star being the Kebab e Murgh, or Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebab. Accompany with platters of Tomato and Cucumber Salad, Afghan Potato Salad and Eggplant Dip with Pita for a quintessential summer backyard BBQ.

What about dessert you ask? Afghani’s love ice cream!  And since our menu is based on simplicity this month why not have your guests bring the fixin’s for an ice cream sundae bar. Now, an Afghan ice cream sundae might typically be topped with rosewater syrup and crushed pistachios. But perhaps if they knew about the combination of hot fudge sauce and sliced bananas, topped with whipped cream and nuts they’d understand!

Afghanis typically grill their kebabs over a charcoal fire, with the meat threaded onto very long skewers that they lay over the edges of the grill – they don’t actually use a grate like we do on our grills. I’m guessing you don’t have this type of set-up in your back yard, but perhaps you do have a grill and would like to grill your skewers and dine al-fresco. Being the month of August the weather should be quite nice, and I’m hoping to do just this if the Seattle weather cooperates!

I tried out a few different kebabs before settling on this one. Although lamb is by far the more typical meat used for kebabs, for our purposes I went with chicken thigh; it is economical, it’s more forgiving, and it won’t dry out even if left on the grill a bit too long.

I have to say I felt like I hit pay dirt when I discovered the excellent resource and website, www.afghancooking.net. All of this month’s recipes were taken from this site, and all of them were tested in my kitchen. I can confidently assure you that if you try any of these recipes you’ll be happy. And if you’d like to go with a lamb kebab I can also recommend that you try Khalida’s Lamb Kebab from this site. If you do though, get yourself a piece of boneless leg of lamb and cut it into cubes, you will have a better result than using lamb stew meat as was suggested.

Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebab
Serves 6

Kebabs are mostly sold on the streets of Kabul, and served on Afghan flat bread called lawausha or naan. The kebab sellers, known as the kebabi, wrap the bread around the meat and pull it off the skewer.  A few simple condiments such as salt, pepper, sumac and red pepper flakes are all that’s needed to bring this dish to tasty perfection!


3 cups plain, whole milk Greek yogurt
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs


Put all the ingredients except the chicken in a large bowl and mix well.  Cut the chicken into chunks, about 3 pieces per thigh. Add the chicken and mix until all pieces are covered with yogurt.  Cover the bowl and marinate for at least 24 hours.

Pull the chicken out of the fridge 30 minutes before you are going to grill. Get the barbecue good and hot.  If you are using a gas grill, let it heat up for a good 10 minutes.  In the meantime, pour the chicken into a colander and let excess marinade drip off.

Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers and grill over a medium-high flame about 5-7 minutes per side until cooked through.  You can also broil skewers in the oven, or grill on a stove top grill.

Serve warm with naan.

LindaMcElroyAbout the author

Linda and her husband opened Ristorante Machiavelli in Seattle in 1988. After 25 years of cooking in and running a wildly successful neighborhood restaurant they sold the business and retired. Linda loves browsing through cookbooks, and the position of recipe curator provides her with a great excuse to indulge her passion.  Linda hopes the dishes she tests and recommends will create a great experience for those who replicate her work in their kitchens.