In my twenties I could often be found on the Edgeware Road in London late at night, scoffing Middle Eastern food. The combination of char-grilled chicken, citrusy herbs, chilli, and sesame sauce remains one of the flavour combinations I most lust-after. This Middle Eastern chicken is a great summer recipe as it is delicious fresh from the oven but works just as well at room temperature for a picnic or party. You can also grill the chicken on the BBQ on skewers.
You’ll find sumac, tahini and harissa in any large UK supermarket. In the US you can buy tahini and harissa at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, online or at a Middle Eastern grocery.
I always cook extra chicken and make extra tahini sauce to keep it in the fridge. The cooked chicken and potatoes can sit in the fridge for 4 days, the sauce for 2 weeks. Eat the chicken at room temperature without re-heating it. The potatoes can be reheated in a hot oven for around 10 minutes.
Middle Eastern Chicken Ingredients (serves 4 people)
4 skinless boneless outdoor reared chicken breasts or boneless skinless thighs
1 tablespoon ground sumac
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
half a tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons organic rapeseed/canola or olive oil
750g / 1.5lb unpeeled waxy, salad, or new potatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 lemon, un-waxed or wax soaked off in boiling water
4 tablespoons fresh oregano, marjoram, rosemary or thyme leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons organic rapeseed/canola or olive oil
Green tahini sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled
50g / 2 ounces Flat leaf / Italian parsley
8 tablespoons (about 100g or 3.5 ounces) tahini
1 lemon, juice and zest
8 tablespoons water
- Harissa – or for a less spicy sauce, use romesco
- Rocket/arugula, shredded Romaine or watercress, ribbons of courgette/zucchini
- Warmed flatbread.
- Make the chicken marinade. Mix the sumac, allspice, whole cumin seeds, cinnamon and oil in a glass lidded container – one that is big enough to hold the chicken.
- Add the chicken to the marinade. Use scissors to snip the chicken into the marinade. I like to cut each breast or thigh into about 6 pieces. Mix and leave to marinate – a couple of hours or overnight is ideal but it is 70% as good if you just leave it for 20 minutes.
- Prep and cook the potatoes. Preheat the oven to 200°c (190°c fan) / 400°F (375°F convection). Cut the potatoes into quarters, lengthways. Put them into an ovenproof metal or ceramic dish so that they sit in a single layer. Cut the lemon in quarters lengthways. Then cut each quarter into 3. Add the lemon to the potatoes along with the squished garlic cloves – leave the skin on them, herb leaves, a teaspoon of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and oil. Use your hands to mix everything well so that the lemons start to crush and lose their juice into the pan. Put the potatoes into the oven and cook for 40-50 minutes, turning once half way through. Don’t fret if they stick.
- Make the green tahini sauce While the potatoes cook, put all the sauce ingredients into a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Add more water if needed until you get the texture of yoghurt. Taste and add more salt, pepper and lemon as needed. Set aside. This can live in the fridge for a week or two if you want to prep it ahead.
- Cook the chicken Heat a large frying pan/skillet without any oil on a high heat. Use tongs to lift the chicken pieces out of the marinade and drop them into the pan. You don’t want to overcrowd the pan or you won’t get the right crisp outside. If need be, use two pans or cook the chicken in batches. Leave the chicken pieces for 4 minutes on one side without moving them. Then turn them onto their other side, sprinkle them with sea salt and continue to cook until they are cooked through. Use a second pair of tongs to handle them once they are cooked. Breast takes about 8 minutes and thigh 10-12 minutes on a high heat.
- Warm the flatbread in the oven with the potatoes or on the grill.
- Scatter undressed salad leaves and ribbons of courgette/zucchini (I use a vegetable peeler to get ribbons) on a large platter. Squeeze lemon and around half a teaspoon each of sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper over the leaves.
- Scrape the potatoes, pan juices and lemon pieces over the salad.
- Sit the chicken and any pan juices on top of the leaves and potatoes.
- Drizzle the green sauce and harissa on top, or serve them on the side.
For the ultimate experience – take a warmed wrap, spread it with the green sauce then stuff it with some of the chicken, potato, salad and harissa. Roll up and munch.
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