Chicken musakhan by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley

246_chicken_musakhan

Musakhan is the hugely popular national dish of Palestine: growing up, Sami ate it once a week, pulling a piece of chicken and sandwiching it between a piece of pita or latbread. It’s a dish to eat with your hands and with your friends, served from one pot or plate, for everyone to then tear at some of the bread and spoon over the chicken and topping for themselves.

Traditionally, musakhan was made around the olive oil pressing season in October or November to celebrate (and gauge the quality of) the freshly pressed oil. The taboon bread would be cooked in a hot taboon oven (see page 341) lined with smooth round stones, to create small craters in the bread in which the meat juices, onion and olive oil all happily pool. It’s cooked year round, nowadays, layered with shop-bought taboon or pita bread, and is a dish to suit all occasions: easy and comforting enough to be the perfect weeknight supper as it is, but also special enough to stand alongside other dishes
at a feast.

Playing around: The chicken can be replaced with thick slices of roasted aubergine or chunky cauliflower florets, if you like (or a mixture of both), for a vegetarian alternative. If you do this, toss the slices or florets in the oil and spices, as you do the chicken, and  roast at 200°C fan for about 25 minutes for the cauliflower and about 35 minutes for the aubergine.

Serves four
1 chicken (about 1.7kg), divided into 4 pieces (1.4kg) or 1kg chicken supremes (between 4 and 6, depending on size), skin on, if you prefer
120ml olive oil, plus 2–3
tbsp extra, to finish
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 tbsp sumac
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
30g pine nuts
3 large red onions, thinly sliced
2–3mm thick (500g)
4 taboon breads (see headnote),
or any flatbread (such as Arabic
flatbread or naan bread) (330g)
5g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper

To serve
300g Greek-style yoghurt
1 lemon, quartered
Preheat the oven to 200°C fan.

Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of oil, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1½ teaspoons of sumac, the cinnamon, allspice, 1 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well to combine, then spread out on a parchment-lined baking tray. Roast until the chicken is cooked through. This will take about 30 minutes if starting with supremes and up to 45 minutes if starting with the whole chicken, quartered. Remove from the oven and set aside. Don’t discard any juices which have collected in the tray.

Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large sauté pan, about 24cm, and place on a medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook for about 2–3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the nuts are golden brown. Transfer to a bowl lined with kitchen paper (leaving the oil behind in the pan) and set aside. Add the remaining 60ml of oil to the pan, along with the onions and ¾ teaspoon of salt. Return to a medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onions are completely soft and pale golden but not caramelised. Add 2 tablespoons of sumac, the remaining 2 teaspoons of cumin and a grind of black pepper and mix through, until the onions are completely coated. Remove from the heat and set aside.

When ready to assemble the dish, set the oven to a grill setting and slice or tear the bread into quarters or sixths. Place them under the grill for about 2–3 minutes, to crisp up, then arrange them on a large platter. Top the bread with half the onions, followed by all the chicken and any chicken juices left in the tray. Either keep each piece of chicken as it is or else roughly shred it as you plate up, into two or three large chunks. Spoon the remaining onions the top and sprinkle with the pine nuts, parsley, 1½ teaspoons of sumac and a final drizzle of olive oil. Serve at once, with the yoghurt and a wedge of lemon alongside.

Extracted from FALASTIN: A COOKBOOK by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Ebury Press, £27) Photography by Jenny Zarins

Buy the book 
Falastin: A Cookbook
Ebury Press, £27

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Basque-Style Chicken by Michel Roux Jr

chicken basque style

(POULET BASQUAISE)

This is a really good simple supper – everything you need in one pot. I like to make it with chicken legs, as they are more flavourful than breast and less likely to be dry. Espelette chillies are grown in the Basque region in southwest France and have a beautifully mild, fragrant taste that is perfect for this dish. If you can’t find any, just use other chillies to taste. This is a dish that’s even better when made in advance and then reheated.

Serves 4

12 new potatoes, scrubbed
4 chicken legs
1 tbsp smoked paprika
4 tbsp olive oil
2 red, green or yellow peppers, halved and seeded
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3 bay leaves
2 thyme sprigs
200ml white wine
1 tbsp piment d’espelette (see page 8) or chilli flakes
4 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the potatoes in half, put them in a pan of salted water and bring to the boil. Cook them for 10 minutes, then drain and set aside. Joint the chicken legs into thighs and drumsticks – or ask your butcher to do this for you. Season them with salt and smoked paprika. Heat the oil in an ovenproof pan or a flameproof casserole dish and fry the chicken pieces until golden brown on both sides. Remove them from the pan and set them aside.

Slice the peppers into long strips and fry them in the same pan until tender, then add the onions, garlic and par-boiled potatoes. Cook them over a medium heat for 5–6 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/ Gas 6.

Tie the bay leaves and thyme sprigs together and add them to the pan along with the wine and piment d’espelette or chilli flakes. Add extra chilli if you like your food really spicy.

Add the tomatoes, then put the chicken and any juices back into the pan and stir gently. Put a lid on the pan or cover it tightly with foil and place it in the oven for 30 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear. Check the seasoning, then serve or set aside to enjoy later.

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Buy this book
The French Revolution: 140 Classic Recipes made Fresh & Simple
£25, Seven Dials

Chicken and Charcoal by Matt Abergel

Chicken and Charcoal

What’s the USP? Everything you every wanted to know about yakitori (Japanese-style skewered and grilled chicken) plus a whole lot more you didn’t even know you wanted to know.

Who’s the author? Matt Abergel is the skateboarding chef and owner of cult Hong Kong restaurant Yardbird that has helped put yakitori on the global culinary map. This is his first cookbook.

What does it look like? A crazy, but beautifully designed, mash-up of an art catalogue, lifestyle magazine and instruction manual. There’s artworks by Yardbird logo designer Evan Hecox; articles on the restaurant’s designer chairs and branded products that include Yardbird Vans skateboarding sneakers and a line of sake and a profile of Yardbird co-owner Lindsay Jang.

But the ‘meat’ (pun intended) of the book is a series of detailed step by step instructions and recipes for butchering a chicken ready for skewering (and that means really butchering the thing down to its last tiny constituent parts including the thyroid and gizzard) and every type of yakitori you can imagine from fillet and thigh to ventricle and soft knee bone.

Is it good bedtime reading? Settle in with a Horlicks and the 40-odd page introductory section with profiles, interviews and articles.

Will I have trouble finding ingredients? How good is your butcher? If you want to cook some of the more recherché recipes in the book like Thyroid skewers you’ll need to find one that will supply you whole chickens with head and organs intact. Good luck with that. You will also need to find a very good Asian grocer or specialist Japanese store for items such as Okinawan black sugar and Chinkiang black rice vinegar.

What’s the faff factor? Correctly butchering your whole chicken, should you be able to get hold of one, will take some practice and there’s a lot of fiddly skewering to be done. Some of the ‘smaller’ and ‘bigger’ dishes require a large number of ingredients and a fair amount of preparation.

How annoyingly vague are the recipes? Measurements are precise – no pinch of this or glug of that – and the methods are detailed and clear. The recipe for Chicken Katsu that is meant to appear on page 174 is however so vague that it has actually completely disappeared from the book.

How often will I cook from the book? Much of the food will be time-consuming to prepare so this is one for the weekend.

Killer recipes? Aside from the yakitori recipes, the chapter on ‘smaller’ snacking dishes includes mushroom salad with mizuna, watercress and wasabi and the ‘Yardbird Caesar’ that’s made with Chinese cabbage, mizuna and nori and a dressing that includes miso, roasted garlic and rice vinegar, while ‘bigger’ dishes include KFC (Korean fried cauliflower) and scotch egg with cabbage, tonkatsu sauce and Kewpie mayo.

What will I love? The sheer attention to detail, the elegant look and all the little extras like the cocktail and highball recipes and a staff Q&A profiling the people behind the restaurant. A lot of love, time and effort has obviously gone into the book making it a rewarding experience both to read and use in the kitchen.

What won’t I like? The full-page, black and white close-up photo of raw chicken skin on page 90 is both gnarly and vaguely obscene.

Should I buy it? If you are interested in Japanese cooking and want the definitive last word on yakitori or are just interested in what’s happening in the modern Hong Kong restaurant scene or just love a well put together cookbook then Chicken and Charcoal is well worth owning.

Cuisine: Japanese
Suitable for: Professional chefs/Confident home cooks
Cookbook Review Rating: 4 Stars

Buy this book
Chicken and Charcoal: Yakitori, Yardbird, Hong Kong
£24.95, Phaidon

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KFC (Korean Fried Cauliflower)
Eggplant Salad with Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu

Eggplant Salad with Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu by Matt Abergel

139 eggplant salad

 

Ingredients:

Japanese eggplant (aubergine) ……………………………….  1 piece
Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu (see below) …………  25g
Cucumber ……………………………………………………………….  50g
Myoga, sliced ………………………………………………………….  12g
Vietnamese crispy shallots………………………………………  14g
Olive oil …………………………………………………………….…….  4g. plus extra to dress
Salt ………………………………………………………………………….  1g

For the Pickled Garlic and Ginger

Tosazu Tosazu (page 186) ……………………………………….  1 quantity
Bonito pickled garlic ………………………………………………..  300g
Ginger …………………………………………………………….……….  75g

 

Yield: 2 servings

Method:

  1. First, make the Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. This is a lot more than you need, but will keep well chilled for 1 month.
  2. Using a cook’s blowtorch, evenly sear the skin of the Japanese eggplants (aubergines). Only move from each spot that is burning when the skin glows like the end of a lit cigarette.
  3. As you burn each eggplant, place in a metal bowl covered in plastic wrap so that they steam gently.
  4. When ready to peel, place the eggplant on a paper towel and gently scrape away the skin.
  5. Place the eggplant flesh into a vacuum bag or an airtight container, cover with the Pickled Garlic and Ginger Tosazu, then seal and leave to marinate until ready to use (a minimum of 2 hours.)
  6. To cut the cucumber refer to page 127. Lightly salt the cucumber, then leave to sit in the refrigerator for 10–15 minutes until water is released. Gently squeeze any excess water out of the cucumber batons and return to the refrigerator until ready to use.
  7. Combine 65 g of the marinated eggplant with the cucumber, half of the sliced myoga, 11 g of the fried shallots, the olive oil, and salt.
  8. To serve, put the salad in a chilled bowl, layering everything neatly. Garnish with the reserved shallots and myoga, then dress with olive oil.

Recipe extracted from Chicken and Charcoal by Matt Abergel, published by Phaidon

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