The mangal philosophy
The word mangal comes from the Arabic word manqal, which means ‘portable’ and refers to the portable grill that Bedouins generally used to heat their tents during cold nights in the desert. The fact that it was portable was essential for nomadic tribes. Nowadays it is mostly associated with one country, Turkey, where cooking and food hold a very special place in the hearts of its people. Here it is widely used, taking centre stage at celebrations among family or friends, as it does in other countries such as Israel or Iraq. These celebrations are so copious and hearty that if you are invited to a barbecue in Turkey, people will tell you to make sure you are very, very hungry beforehand.
In Turkey, food is a very serious matter. When preparing a dish, each and every one of the traditional steps must be followed. Everything in the kitchen takes time and has a specific method. Turkey is famous for its cuisine and it is this that defines each of its different regions, and even its cities; every part of the country has its own traditions and ways of preparing dishes. However, there is one thing common to all Turkish cuisine which has a special place in everyone’s heart: the mangal, or the Turkish barbecue.
The mangal, the barbecue ritual with a difference
As we mentioned, the mangal is a ritual in Turkey. It’s the perfect excuse to get together with your loved ones around a table and engage in pleasant and entertaining conversation while enjoying the best barbecue of your life. The mangal is the main event at picnics (whether it’s a nice summer’s day or a cold, unseasonably cool day) and it takes time; it’s at the exact moment when the charcoal starts to smoulder that all the diners will need to get stuck in if they don’t want to miss the party.
The mangal is ideal for grilling various cuts of meat, such as steak, shishlik (the famous Persian beef and lamb kebabs) or kebab. These dishes are accompanied by grilled vegetables, salads and other cold foods, for a social gathering with family and friends in gardens or picnic areas where everyone gets together to feast and enjoy great food.
Some people will be in charge of lighting the fire and cooking the meat (beef, chicken or fish), while others will be responsible for keeping the fire going or watching the meat, to make sure it is juicy and not overdone. Charcoal takes time to burn, but it will always reach its ideal point. They know that, if all goes well, they will win widespread praise. While the fire is reaching the perfect temperature, that is the time to prepare the meat. If there is kebab on the menu, the other guests will knead the kebab to achieve the very best taste. If it is chicken, it needs to be marinated in a special sauce made with spices and tomato paste to obtain the best results. Fish, however, is more complicated. If it is a large fish it will need to be cleaned, and if it is smaller, such as Black Sea anchovies or hamsi, it will need to be well marinated. No mangal menu would be complete without “çoban” (shepherd’s salad), which is a combination of tomatoes, red peppers and onions, with plenty of virgin olive oil.
When the meat is done and the coals are about to burn down, it is time to put the onions, tomatoes and potatoes on the fire. When the latter are ready, they will be eaten either on their own or as “kumpir” (baked potatoes stuffed with butter, salt, cheese or any other ingredient you can imagine).
Finally, if you’ve been lucky enough to travel to Turkey but haven’t been invited to a picnic, there are plenty of restaurants that offer mangal dining. You won’t regret it.
The Josper mangal is an ideal open charcoal grill for mangal-style cooking. The MGJ-132 model allows you to cook in just 20 minutes, offers a cooking temperature of approximately 250 °C and also has 3 tempering racks, 1 metal grill, 16 GN 1/9 trays and tongs, with all accessories included. It offers several grilling levels, and on each level there are two adjustable cross bars, which allow for direct grilling, grilling with skewers, griddles and Josper GNs or tempering, as well as slow grilling with smoke on top. The first and lowest braising level is used for fast recipes and sealing, the second and third for slower braising, and the fourth for tempering and keeping food warm. With the Josper mangal, you can cook a variety of food over charcoal, including different cuts of meat, such as steaks, hamburger, kebab, shaslik, chicken breasts or chicken wings, as well as a variety of vegetables.
Here is a delicious traditional recipe for the famous marinated chicken skewers that you can cook in a Josper mangal:
Marinated chicken skewers for the mangal
-1 kg boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
-1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
-3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander, or parsley if not available
-2 cloves of crushed garlic
-1 teaspoon paprika
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon cumin
-1/4 teaspoon turmeric
-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
You will need 6-8 metal or wooden skewers.
1. Cut the chicken into 3 cm strips to thread onto the skewers.
2. Marinade: in a small bowl, mix the olive oil, lemon juice, coriander (or parsley), crushed garlic, paprika, salt, cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper. Place the chicken strips in a glass dish. Pour the marinade over the chicken and toss to coat. Cover afterwards with film. Place in the refrigerator and allow the chicken to marinate for at least 2 hours.
2. Generously grease the mangal and heat over a medium temperature, then evenly divide the chicken over 6-8 skewers.
3. Then all that remains is to place the skewers in the hot pan and cook for 10-15 minutes, turning once during cooking.