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Coffee and chilli chicken koftas with onions

Main BBQ
Serves 4
Prep 25 min
Cook 55 min

The coffee adds a smoky, earthy quality to these koftas, but without dominating proceedings. Swap the cascabel chilli for another mild dried chilli, such as guajillo, if you prefer. And it’s worth making double or triple the coffee rub, because it works wonders on all sorts of grilled meats and vegetables.


500g boned and skinned chicken thighs, cut into roughly 3-4cm pieces
½ onion, peeled and coarsely grated (65g net weight)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 large tomato (120g), coarsely grated and skin discarded (90g)
5-6 tbsp (20g) flat-leaf parsley, half roughly chopped, the rest picked with some stem attached
1 large lemon – half finely zested, to get 2 tsp, and juiced, to get, 1 tbsp, the other half cut into two wedges
75ml olive oil
salt and black pepper
2 red onions, peeled and each cut into 5 rounds
1½ tbsp picked mint leaves
2 tbsp finely ground coffee
1 tbsp ground cascabel chilli (about 2 whole chillies, blitzed in a spice grinder)
1½ tsp soft light brown sugar
1 tsp smoked paprika
1½ tsp ground cumin


  1. Put the chicken thighs in a food processor and pulse until minced. Tip out into a large bowl and add the grated onion, garlic, tomato, chopped parsley, lemon zest, a tablespoon of oil, three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and knead (wear gloves, if you prefer) for about three minutes, until well combined and sticky. Divide the mix into 12, then form into compact, torpedo-shaped koftas of about 55g each.
  2. Make the rub by combining all ingredients with a half-teaspoon of salt. Set aside a third of the rub mixture and spread the rest over a baking tray. Roll each kofta in the coffee rub until well coated all over, and set aside (or refrigerate if you’re getting ahead).
  3. Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9. Gently toss the red onion rounds in a tablespoon of oil, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, keeping them as intact as possible. Put a well-greased griddle pan on a high heat and ventilate the kitchen. Once the griddle is hot, grill the onion slices for four minutes on each side, until well charred and softened, then set aside to cool.
  4. Drizzle the kofta with a tablespoon of oil, then grill them in two batches for about 90 seconds a batch, until lightly charred on the outsides (take care they don’t catch and burn). Transfer the grilled kofta to a medium oven tray lined with greaseproof paper and roast in the hot oven for six minutes. Combine the reserved coffee rub with two tablespoons of oil and drizzle all over the kofta. Return to the oven for another three minutes, until cooked through and nicely browned.
  5. In a bowl, toss the grilled onion with the mint, picked parsley, lemon juice and a pinch each of salt and pepper (don’t worry if the rounds separate at this stage).
  6. Arrange the koftas and their cooking juices on a platter and pile the grilled onion salad to one side. Squeeze the lemon wedges over the koftas and serve warm.