02 November 2011

Chicken with Sumac, Zaatar & Pine Nuts

I indulged my predilection for collecting cookbooks and succumbed to Ottolenghi The Cookbook.  I had resisted for long enough after falling for Plenty and my addiction could only be held at bay for so long.  Ottolenghi The Cookbook has more wonderful vegetarian dishes plus meat, fish and all sorts of sweet treats that are way beyond tempting.  This one will certainly make it straight away to the handful of books that I return to again and again and so quite likely to mean many more Ottolenghi inspired blog posts.  One quick flick through and many, many recipes I want to try.

I am always on the look out for new ways to make chicken interesting and this one caught my eye,  roasted with lemons and red onions and topped with za'atar, sumac and pine nuts it all seemed a little more exotic than the usual roast chook.  This was perfect for a weekend dinner with a friend, accompanied by a little vino and a marathon catch up on season 1 of Downton Abbey.  I missed it first time round as I am not easily swayed to period dramas but I have fallen in love with it. Just wonderful, wonderful drama about the trials and tribulations of the Crawleys, their staff and the majestic Downton Abbey. Maggie Smith steals every scene she is in, amazing. It, the chicken that it, was also as easy as popping everything in a zip lock bag to marinade before popping in the oven.

Back to the chicken....the inspiration for this one comes from the traditional Palestinian dish M'sakhan. A favourite dish in Palestine, using locally available ingredients, olive oil, sumac and pine nuts and it is usually eaten with your hands, which works for me.  There is something about eating food with your fingers that I love, whether tender juicy chicken, BBQ ribs or fish and chips, they all seem to taste better when eaten with your fingers. Traditionally when cooking the M'sakhan the chicken is enveloped in flat breads that soak up all the juices.

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za'atar and Lemon, from Ottolenghi The Cook Book

Serves 4


1 large chicken,  divided in to quarters: breast and wing, leg and thigh.  Or I used a mix of chicken breast and thighs, skin on!*
2 red onions, thinly sliced, I had regular onions and they worked fine too.
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp sumac
1 lemon, thinly sliced
200ml chicken stock or water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp za'atar
20g unsalted butter
50g pine nuts
4 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped


Grab a large zip lock bag, or you could use a large bowl, and add the chicken, onions, garlic, olive oil, allspice, cinnamon, sumac, lemon, stock or water, salt and pepper.  Give the chicken a really good massage to coat it well with all the flavours.  The bonus of a zip lock bag is that you can massage away with out getting your hands dirty and less washing up.  Pop in the fridge to marinate for, at least a few hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200C/375F and place the chicken and the marinade on a baking tray large enough for the chicken pieces to lie flat and with a little space between them.  They should be skin side up.  Scatter the za'atar over the chicken and onions and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is roasted and cooked through.  The chicken is cooked through when the juices run clear when lightly pierced.

While the chicken is cooking melt the butter over a medium heat and add the pine nuts.  Season with a pinch of salt and cook until they turn golden.  Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb the fat.

Place the chicken and onions on to a serving platter and scatter over the pine nuts, parsley and a drizzle of olive oil.  And if you are a fan of za'atar some more of that can be sprinkled over the top too.

 *You may have to go to a butcher as bizarrely some local supermarket only have skinless.  I may not like to eat the skin but I certainly want it on there when I am roasting the chicken!

Tender chicken,caramelised onions and lemons are quite delicious and then to top it all off a lemony kick from the sumac.  The za'atar is an earthy blend of thyme, toasted sesame and salt adding another layer of flavour and texture and not to forget those toasted pine nuts, delivering a buttery crunch.  This chicken is all set to make its second appearance for a weekend with the girls, while it marinates and roasts we can get on with the important business of catching up on each other lives over a vino or 2.

If you like this you might like this Tandoori-ish Chicken



  1. My family will love this one - we devour anything with za'atar. I do love Ottolenghi and may have to follow your lead and get The Cookbook (I adore Plenty).

    I'm not familiar with Downtown Abbey - sounds like a good one!

  2. I was not as restrained as you, I bought The Cook Book first and had to get Plenty straight away. The Cookbook is my favourite though and has some great chicken and other meat recipes that will also go well on the BBQ this summer

  3. I love Ottolenghi recipes although admit that sometimes the complexity puts me off. My favourite recipe from this book is the chicken and 3 rice salad which is totally wonderful. I cheat though and buy the gourmet rice mix!

    Downtown Abbey Series 1 is truly wonderful. My jury is out on S2 though......

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  5. I find it odd, too, that it's getting harder to find skin-on chicken in some places... I mean, okay, people might be worried about the fat... but the skin adds so much flavour, easy to remove too if you don't want to eat it!

    Love this combination of flavours. I really need to get my hands on Ottolenghi :)

  6. Oh, Mairi! Now I am in trouble. I know I will one-click the books you have mentioned...I have my Amazon browser open just in case.

    Nothing like insights from friends on books to add to the collection. I like books that I will return to again and again!

    Thank you ;-)!

  7. This looks absolutely delicious, cannot wait to try it.
    And yes, Downton Abbey is the best TV I've seen in a long time. Just finished off series two...

  8. @Hannah Oh you should..The Cookbook is so good too. And I reckon you would love Downton Abbey :)

  9. @peasepudding Ha ha...I don't think constrained goes with cook books when it comes to me!

  10. @Domestic Executive Thanks Julie :) You should give Ottolenghi a go...less complicated than they look :) And I have to say I am enjoying S2 :)

  11. @milliemirepoix Hi Mika, totally weird...I hardly ever eat the skin but still want it on for cooking!

  12. @Annapet I am a firm believer that until I have as many cook books as Nigella (1000s & 1000s) then I don't have too many....especially with Amazon doing free shipping all the way to NZ!!

  13. @Anna Thanks Anna...loving season 2! I see you are in Auckland...you should head over to http://www.foodbloggersnz.com/ ad sign up, a small but growing community of NZ Food Bloggers :)


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