Wednesday, 1 September 2010

chicken w sumac, za’atar & lemon (m’sakhan)

How does a recipe for Palestinian M’sakhan, a London restaurant, an Aussie blogger, a birthday present and Barcelona all come together into one story?

Because my wonderful pal , Nicki, gave me this cookbook from the London restaurant Ottolenghi for my birthday when we celebrated together in Barcelona!

This birthday I gained an extremely unwanted year, forcibly prodding me into a new decade, something I was not at all pleased about.

Despite this anxiety-ridden turn of events, I managed to celebrate the hideous day with some of my closest friends and my sisters in Barcelona.

Who can complain about that?

Well, I still cried a little but when I blew the candles out.
It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, right?

But seriously, what are the chances that so many of your peeps can be on the other side of the world at the same time to meet you in one of Europe’s party cities? It was amazing!

And with my June birthday now a distant memory, last weekend I spent my time busily leafing through the Ottolenghi cookbook, marking out the most beautiful recipes.

There are so many that have caught my eye, but I want to share these particularly exciting options with you:
• Cucumber & Poppy Seed Salad
• Puy Lentils, Sour Cherries, Bacon & Gorgonzola
• Jerusalem Artichoke & Rocket Soup
• Lamb & Beef Meatballs Baked in Tahini
• Roast Pork Belly w Gooseberry, Ginger & Elderflower Relish
• Seared Tuna w Pistachio Crust & Papaya Salsa
• Cheddar & Caraway Cheese Straws
• Lavender & Honey Teacakes
• Plum, Marzipan & Cinnamon Muffins
• Prune & Brandy Truffles

But my cookbook will be used first to make this adaptation of the Palestinian Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za’atar & Lemon (M’sakhan).

As the Ottolenghi crew explain, it’s great served with a garlicky-yoghurt sauce with lemon and warm pita bread. I also made an Ottolenghi salad of Radish, Broad Beans & Green Tahini to go on the side.

The results? DELICIOUS!

Palestinian Roast Chicken w Sumac, Za’atar & Lemon (M’sakhan)

Anna’s adaptation from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. Serves 2.

2 chicken marylands
Red onion, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
¼ teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons sumac
1 lemon
200ml chicken stock
1 teaspoon smoked sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
2 tablespoons za’atar
50g pine nuts
20g butter
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley


1. Wash then juice the lemon, then cut the juiced fruit into slices.

2. In a large bowl, mix the chicken with the onions, garlic, lemon juices and slices, cinnamon, smoky paprika, allspice, sumac, salt and pepper. Marinate overnight or at least a few hours.

3. Preheat oven to 200’C.

4. Put the chicken and all its marinade in a baking dish, ensuring the chicken is flat and not touching each other. Put the chicken skin side up.

5. Sprinkle the za’atar over the chicken and onions then roast for 30 – 40 minutes until the chicken is coloured and just cooked through.

6. In the meantime, melt the butter in a frying pan and sauté the nuts with a pinch of salt until golden, stirring constantly. Drain on kitchen paper.

7. Transfer the hot chicken to serving plates and finish with chopped parsley, toasted nuts and a drizzle of olive oil.

I've blogged about sumac before as a Weekend Herb Blogging ingredient, so I'm going to pinch the content directly from my own post. Apologies to myself.


Sumac is the name of all 250 species of flowering plants from the genus Rhus.

Also known as sumach, sumak, summak, tanner’s sumach, sommacco, zumaque and sammak, in this particular case sumac refers to the spice created from grinding the Rhus coriaria’s dried berries. This produces a tart, sour deep red-purple powder which is extremely popular in Arabic, Levant, Persian and Turkish cuisine.

Sumac berries form tight clusters of red drupes or bobs. They are harvested just before ripeness and sun dried. In growing regions you can buy whole dried berries whereas the rest of us need to make do with sumac powders. The powder keeps in an airtight container for several months.

The Rhus coriaria comes from the Mediterranean but sumac in general grows in subtropical and warm temperate regions throughout the world. It has been used in Mediterranean cooking since Ancient Rome and is a major souring agent in Middle Eastern cooking, replacing lemon juice, tamarind and vinegars.

There are numerous ways to employ sumac in your kitchen:
• on kebabs, fish or chicken before grilling
• popular in salad dressings, marinades, stews and casseroles
• enhances the flavour of fresh tomatoes and avocados
• mixed with yoghurt and fresh herbs as a dip or sauce
• dusted over feta or labneh cheese
• mixed with olive oil as a dip with bread
• common ingredient in za'atar (a spice mix)

North American sumac is also employed for culinary purposes. Native Americans used smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) and staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) to make rhus juice, also known as sumac-ade or Indian lemonade. They would soak the sumac berry clusters in water to remove the essence then strain and sweeten the liquid.

Other North American sumac includes Rhus glabra, an excellent leather tanner which produces flexible, light weight and almost white leather products, and Rhus toxicodendron, also known as Poison Ivy.

Sumac is said to have diuretic effects and the assist bowel problems and fever. In the Middle East a sour drink is made from sumac to relieve indigestion.

And one last weird fact: dried sumac wood glows under UV lighting. Who would have thought!

That’s it for WHB for another week. Check out the recap with our host Janet from The Taste Space.

References & Photo Source:


  1. Ellerinize sağlık. Çok leziz görünüyor.


  2. I really like za'atar. Sometimes I just enjoy it sprinkled over potato wedges.

  3. I have only recently been introduced to sumac and this looks like a lovely way to use it. :) I have yet to try za'atar though. Thank you for submitting this to WHB this week. :)


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