Roast chicken with sumac,za’atar and lemon


roast chicken with sumac, za'atar and lemon

And what on earth are sumac and za’atar, I hear you ask? Well…I didn’t know either, until I got my very first Ottolenghi cookery book for Christmas (called simply: Ottolenghi, the Cookbook. Not much imagination in the title, then) . I started leafing through it (while salivating profusely just looking at the pictures as all the dishes looked incredibly appealing) and quickly realized I had to invest some money in buying these two spices as they seemed to pop up time and time again in his recipes. So there you have the answer to my question: sumac and za’atar are spices used a lot in middle eastern dishes. To be precise: sumac is a spice made from the crushed berries of a small Mediterranean tree and za’atar is a blend of dried thyme, toasted sesame seeds and salt. I think I’ve mentioned before that Ottolenghi is an Israeli chef (with an Italian granddad, you will have guessed from his surname). I tried some of his recipes before and found them delicious. But I confess to be unfamiliar with some of the ingredients he uses, including these two spices. Unfortunately they are not commonly found in supermarkets. Certainly not in those in the north East of England where I live. Perhaps in London would be a different story. Anyway, fear not! If you live in the metaphorical culinary desert, like myself, you can simply buy them on line (which is what I did), together with other fancyful middle eastern ingredients (like orange blossom water, rose water, etc.). Problem solved. This particular dish is very simple to make but you have to think in advance as you have to marinate the chicken pieces beforehand. Ideally the day before. However, if you are organized and manage to do just that you’ll end up with a dish very easy to make but packed full of flavours, bound to impress your family and friends!  I served it with some lovely blanched asparagus and some sweet potato gratin (another Ottolenghi’s recipe which I will blog too) but it would be good with cous cous, a lovely salad or other vegetables too.



1 large free-range chicken, divied into 4-6 pieces

2 red onions, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon sumac

1 lemon, thinly sliced

200ml chicken stock or water (I used water)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons za’atar

20g butter

50g pine nuts

4 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley


1. In a large bowl, mix the chicken with the onions, garlic, olive oil, spices, lemon, stock or water, salt and pepper. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Transfer the chicken and marinade to a baking tray large enough to accommodate all the chicken pieces lying flat and spaced apart. They should be skin side up. Sprinkle the za’atar over the chicken and onions and put the tray in the oven. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is coloured and just cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small frying pan, add the pine nuts and a pinch of salt and cook over a moderate heat, stirring constantly, until they turn golden. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb the fat.

4. Transfer the hot chicken and onions to a serving plate and finish with the chopped parsley, pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil. You can sprinkle on more za’atar and sumac if you like.



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