Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Ottolenghi's roast chicken with sumac, za'atar and lemon

I had a little manna from Amazon Japan at the end of last year. Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, which I had been lusting after for ages (but hanging out for the paperback edition), was somehow on sale for under 2,000 yen: nearly half-price. I jumped right in and bagged myself the last copy at that price--book storage space worries be damned!

I can't remember when I first heard the name Ottolenghi, but have been following the London restaurant chain's eponymous founder in his New Vegetarian column on the Guardian for ages, so I knew the guy had the goods for me: bold tastes, layers of flavour, and plenty of tartness (favourite ingredients like sumac, pomegranate molasses and lemons (!) all feature prominently).

Judging by the size of his Guardian archive, Yotam Ottolenghi (the chef) clearly has a big heart. This shows absolutely in Cookbook, which is lovingly written with partner/Ottolenghi head chef Sami Tamimi, and showcases recipes from other Ottolenghi (the restaurant) leading lights: a bonus I wasn't expecting. I also loved the touching story of the pair's meeting in London after living parallel lives for years on the two sides of the Israel/Palestine divide. May delicious food unite us all.

This was my Cookbook debut, made for my dearest friend H, who had kindly offered to come, jet lagged, 70 minutes to Yokohama to help me build a bookcase (just in time, really)!

The recipe is apparently a pared down version of the Palestinian classic, m'sakhan. Elsewhere on the Net, you'll find that dish described as spiced chicken with caramelized onions and bread. Ottolenghi's recipe doesn't caramelize the onions, but next time, I might fish out the onions from the marinade and fry them up for a few minutes before putting the whole thing in the oven.

A couple of notes to myself, here: do not use lemons which you've already zested for another recipe (the bitterness from the exposed pith was a bit annoying when I reheated this for lunch the next day. My fault. Live and learn.) And I reckon go with chicken legs next time: saves on chopping up and everyone gets a leg that wants one (everyone, really)!

This dish needs to marinate overnight, so you'll need to be prepared. And please don't be tempted to chop all those onions at midnight after a few glasses of wine, boys and girls. Auntie Saffron knows what she's talking about!

Oh, and if you don't have a bag of za'atar (a blend of thyme, sesame and sumac) lying about (g), you could try this recipe. In Japan, I have seen sumac/somaq at Tehran Shop near Yokohama (see here for directions in Japanese). It is also used in Turkish cooking, so you might be able to track it down at one of the many online Turkish shops.

Roast chicken with sumac, za'atar and lemon

Serves 4

1 large chicken, divided into quarters, breast and wing, leg and thigh, or 4 large leg & thigh pieces
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sumac
1-2 lemons, thinly sliced
200 chicken stock or water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp za'atar
20 g unsalted butter
50 g pine nuts
4 tbsp 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. Leave in the fridge to marinate for a few hours or overnight.

2 Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Transfer the chicken and its 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 min, 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 until they are golden. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb the fat.

4 Transfer the hot chicken 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.



M S said...

I love Yotam's recipes!

Thank you for sharing this. I recently saw a great BBC show he did tasting the food of Jerusalem.

If I only I could track down some Zaatar in Tohoku!

Saffron said...

Hi MS,

Thanks for commenting!

I don't know about Tohoku, but this online shop sells za'atar for some silly price: http://home.att.ne.jp/red/yazawa-inter/listofitems.htm (I've not actually used this shop; just letting you know it's there).

You would probably be better off getting some sumac, which they also sell, and making your own. I've been researching recipes, but haven't come up with anything definitive, but it's basically sumac, sesame seeds and oregano.

There's a recipe here http://www.tasteofbeirut.com/2009/10/zaatar/ and other ideas here http://www.awakensavor.com/zaatar1.html

Happy cooking!