My first encounter with Musakhan was not so early in my childhood. My parents had never made this kind of roast chicken for us and so my eyes were big when a friend of my father cooked for us. The sight alone was almost majestic when suddenly a huge serving plate was lifted onto the table. A feast!
I don’t know where to start. Musakhan is actually not made up of so many different components and ingredients. And yet it seems as if you get something very special. But what am I talking about? This dish is really something special! And it tells a wonderful story. The visible ingredients are of course the chicken, the caramelized sumac onions, the roasted pine nuts (or blanched almonds) and the flat bread on which everything is served nicely spread out. But one ingredient is not directly visible.
The story of Musakhan is a story of good olive oil
Right, the ingredient I’m talking about is olive oil.
Musakhan originates from the Palestinian cuisine and there, as in the rest of the Levant, there is a great tradition of olive growing and the production of the best olive oil. Palestinian olive growers have always subjected their olive oil to a quality test with Muskahan. But not only that – of course they celebrate their product with this fantastic dish.
Good olive oil, for example, does not cause heartburn and can be heated very well without any loss of quality. This is where the name “Musakhan” comes from (heat, make hot, heated). Besides olive oil there is another ingredient that plays a very important role here: sumac!
Sumac is a spice that is extracted from the berries of the sumac bush and tastes pleasantly sour. But the taste cannot be described with “sour” alone. Sumac has its own unique, full-bodied, fruity and also slightly tart taste. In combination with a very good olive oil and a little salt, this results in a taste explosion that one would not expect to find in such a “few” ingredients – and all this without any artificial flavour enhancers. And so you simply let onions caramelize in the best olive oil with sumac and a little salt.
Musakhan can therefore be described as one of the most important dishes in Palestine.
The ground of all good things: the flat bread
If you want to prepare Musakhan authentically, you need taboon bread, which is still baked in clay ovens in Palestine today. It is as thin as the Lebanese flat bread, but cannot be separated and has many small bubbles on the surface. But don’t worry, you can definitely make the dish with Lebanese flat bread or Naan bread. With Musakhan, none of the good ingredients are left out. Waste is not tolerated! For the preparation of the chicken, I personally always use a whole chicken and fry it as a whole or cut it into the individual parts. The flatbread then absorbs the delicious gravy and is then topped with the caramelized sumac onions. Here too, the olive oil and the fantastic sumac taste is absorbed into the bread. You can probably already imagine how incredibly good the bread tastes.
So it is not the mass of ingredients that makes Musakhan, but their quality. The dish is not expensive and also very easy to prepare. You get juicy fried chicken, fantastic olive oil, onions caramelized with sumac and delicious flat bread in no time at all. A meal that touches my heart every time and makes my fingers dirty – because you definitely don’t need cutlery here.
Musakhan is a simple peasant dish that you could serve to a king at any time.
Recipe for Musakhan
Chicken & Marinade
- 1 Chicken approximately 1 kilogram
- 4 Cloves of garlic
- 2 tsp Allspice
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 1 tsp Cardamom
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 4 tbsp Lemon juice
- 1 tsp Coriander ground
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1,5 tbp Sumac
- 60 ml Olive oil
Sumac Onions & Co.
- 5 Onions
- 3 tbsp Sumac
- 100 ml Olive Oil
- 20 g Pine nuts
- 1 tsp Salt
- 4 Lebanese flat breads
- 1 small bunch Cilantro
Chicken & Marinade
- For the marinade, peel the garlic and crush it finely in a mortar. Mix garlic and all spices, lemon juice and olive oil.
- Wash the chicken and pat dry. Cut the chicken in the middle of the breast and open it or separate the chicken directly into parts.
- Rub chicken or chicken parts properly with the marinade and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour or better overnight in the refrigerator.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and cook the marinated chicken on a deep baking tray coated with olive oil for about 1 hour.
Sumac Onions & Co.
- Peel and halve the onions and cut them into half rings.
- Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on a high heat and fry the onions for about 5 minutes.
- Set the stove on medium heat and add the sumac and salt and mix well.
- Let the onions caramelize for another 10 minutes on medium heat.
- Coarsely chop the cilantro. Fry the pine nuts in a pan until golden brown and remove from the pan.
- Take the cooked chicken out of the oven. Remove chicken from the tray. Place flatbreads on the same baking tray and let the gravy soak up.
- Then spread the flat bread on plates or a large platter. Place caramelized sumac onions on top and spread the chicken or chicken pieces and garnish with roasted pine nuts and chopped cilantro.