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Bob Hart’s recipe for basic – but delicious – chicken thighs

Peter 'Grubby' Stubbs
Article image for Bob Hart’s recipe for basic – but delicious – chicken thighs


There are times – possibly too many of them – when only a simple piece of chicken, tweaked with a knowing flourish of some exotic flavour or other, meticulously seared on a gas grill, or over a bed of charcoal , will do the trick.

But also, there are occasions when the more tricks you have at your command when it comes to embellishing a basic piece of protein on a grill, the fewer you need to use.

As an example, let’s take four sturdy chicken thighs – admirable joints, surely. And, as usual, we will have had them sliced, as half marylands, from large and formidable free-range chooks of some distinction. Won’t we?

Well, maybe not. On this occasion, as we are demonstrating our ability to grill food in a way that is simple, quick and memorable AS WELL as delectable, let’s start by permitting the butcher, or even the supermarket (GASP!), to supply us with even simpler cuts from which they have removed, just this once, both the skins and the bones – promising, of course, never to commit a sacrilege like this ever, ever again.

But just this once, let’s toy with these exquisite slabs of darkish meat by applying a marinade – something we only do in emergencies – fabricated from some of our best-loved and most reliable and admirable ingredients.

Start by finely pulping a thick, 6cm knob of fresh ginger by putting it, in peeled chunks, through a garlic press and pulping it into a medium bowl. Then, pulp 4 or 5 fresh garlic cloves in that same press, and into that same bowl. Add ¾ cup of coconut milk, ¼ cup of sambal oelek (or similar chilli paste), the juice of half a lime, 2 tsp of sea salt and 2 tbs of neutral (i.e.not olive on this occasion) oil and stir to combine well.

Now, add those strangely unadorned chicken thighs to this simple (but exquisite) marinade, and let it work its gentle magic for, say, three hours. Or a touch more, if you like.

Lift the chicken pieces out of the bowl, swiping as much of the marinade as you can off the pieces and back into the bowl, as we have further plans for it. Place the chicken on a platter, and pour the marinade into a small pot. Gently bring to a boil and then simmer it, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced and thickened. Don’t worry about the old raw chicken issues as this sauce has now been carefully cooked. Trust me…

Now, prepare that grill: I love to use charcoal for this, but any good gas grill – provided it is clean, oiled and a tick over 200C will get the job done – PROVIDED you drop that lid whenever possible.

Grill the chicken thighs – achieving enviable grill marks by flipping them once, flipping again, but this time turning through 90 degrees, and then flipping them once more. Aim at a cooking time of around 10-12 minutes (depending on the size of those thighs}, which means 2.5-3 minutes per position – basting occasionally with the marinade, and remembering to drop that lid.

Finally, transfer the cooked thighs to a  warm platter, brush with the last of the marinade, sprinkle with some chopped coriander leaves and serve with a squeeze of lime. On plain rice, perhaps.

Quick, simple and uncomplicated. And all the better for that, right?

Peter 'Grubby' Stubbs