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Helen Graves' suya recipe is a brilliant way to impress your barbecue guests. Suya is identified by a particular spice blend – known as yaji – which is rubbed all over the beef before barbecuing. The contents of yaji vary all over West Africa, but Helen goes for a typical version that includes scotch bonnet powder, cumin, paprika, grains of Selim, cloves and peanuts.

First published in 2018

Suya is a traditional method of West African barbecue originating from the people of the Hausa tribe, one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. It is a dish of grilled beef (or other meats) which are rubbed with a spice mixture called yaji, thought to have powerful, invigorating properties.

There are many different combinations of spices which can make up a yaji, but do try to find the grains of Selim, or uda pods, which are available online or in African grocery shops. It’s also important to serve some of the yaji alongside the finished skewers, with sliced tomatoes and onions.






  • 500g of rump steak, sliced into thin strips


  • Spice grinder
  • Blender
  • Skewers 4


Blend all the spices together in a spice grinder. Blitz the peanuts to a coarse powder in a blender and mix with the spices
Reserve 2 tablespoons of this mixture for garnish, and rub the remaining spice mixture onto the meat. Leave to marinate, preferably overnight
Thread the beef onto skewers and cook over a direct heat on a barbecue, turning often, for around 5 minutes. Serve with extra yaji and the sliced tomatoes and onions

Helen Graves is Head of Content at Great British Chefs. She's also the author of the cookbook LIVE FIRE: Seasonal Barbecue Recipes and Stories of Live Fire Traditions, Old and New, and the editor of Pit, an independent magazine with roots in live fire cooking.

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