A little delayed, I know. However here it is, my 8th of 52 cuisines – Palestinian. Palestinian cuisine has strong influences from Turkish culinary traditions and is also quite similar to Lebanese.
Musakhan (or M’sakhan) is a widely popular meal in Palestine and is often considered the national dish. It is traditionally a roast chicken dish baked upon what they call taboon bread (similar to a pita). I took a simplified and possibly more modern take of the dish from the original Ottolenghi cookbook, aptly named – Ottolenghi The Cookbook.
I tweaked it a little, using some preserved lemon as well as fresh in the dish. Feel free to use just one whole lemon if that’s all you have. N.B. The chicken in this dish needs to be marinated for a few hours or overnight.
Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za’atar and lemon
- 1 large chicken, divided into quarters (breast & wing, leg & thigh)
- 2 red onions, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 4 tblsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tblsp sumac
- 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
- 1 preserved lemon, thinly sliced (pulp and membrane removed)
- 200ml chicken stock
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 2 tblsp za’atar (in the spice aisle of most supermarkets)
- 20g unsalted butter
- 50g pine nuts
- 4 tblsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 4 small pita breads, warmed
- garlicky yoghurt sauce (see recipe below)
Mix your chicken pieces with the onions, garlic, olive oil, spices, lemon, stock, salt and pepper. Leave in the fridge to marinate for a few hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the chicken and its marinade into a large baking tray, with the chicken skin-side up, flat and spaced apart. Sprinkle the za’atar over the chicken and onions and place the tray in the oven for about 40 – 50 mins, depending on your oven.
Test the chicken in its thickest part by placing a skewer in it and pressing against the chicken near the hole to see if the juices run clear. Once the chicken is done, rest it somewhere warm in the kitchen.
While the chicken is cooking and/or resting, melt your butter in a small fry pan. Add the pine nuts and a pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until they just start to turn golden. You need to be on these little guys. They can burn ever so quickly, and remember that the heat in the pan will continue to cook them even after you remove it from the heat. Transfer quickly to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb the melted butter.
Transfer the chicken (along with the onions and lemon pieces) to a platter, and finish with chopped parsley, golden pine nuts, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Serve with warm pita bread and a simple garlicky yoghurt sauce made of approximately: 200ml natural yoghurt; 2 crushed garlic cloves; a drizzle of olive oil; salt and pepper.
Serves 4 spice lovers
With any left over chicken, remove the skin and strip the meat off the bones. Make sure you keep all the onion, lemon, pine nuts and other lovely flavours and mix it with the pulled chicken meat. This Palestinian pulled chicken is so good in salads and sandwiches the next day, and it freezes well too.