I have some za’atar left over from my time living in Lebanon, and recently I’ve been thinking of different uses for it. Za’atar is a Middle Eastern mix of herbs usually including ground dried thyme, oregano, and marjoram, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, salt, and sometimes other spices. When I lived in Beirut I used to love to eat it by dipping my Lebanese bread in olive oil and then dipping that into the za’atar. It gave the bread a slightly spicy, tangy crunch of herbs. A big bag of za’atar was one of several things I took back with me when I left Lebanon, and I still have quite a bit of the spice mixture leftover.
This recipe by Ottolenghi seemed like a perfect new use for my za’atar. It also called for some sumac, which I luckily had lying around leftover from a trip to Turkey. However, both spices can likely be found in the international food isle of a grocery store. The recipe turned out fabulously – the chicken was moist and spicy and had a Middle Eastern tang. I added aubergine and peppers to the original recipe, which also blended quite well with the dish.
Roast Chicken with Sumac and Za’atar
- Four chicken breasts
- 1 red onions, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 eggplant (aubergine), sliced
- 1 red pepper, sliced or chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon sumac
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- 150ml chicken stock
- 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
Combine the ingredients from the chicken to the za’atar in a large bowl. If possible let it marinade overnight in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 400 F (200C). Place the chicken and marinade into a large baking tray. Put the chicken pieces flat on tray about an inch apart. Bake for about 40 minutes or until chicken and vegetables are cooked.
While chicken is cooking, melt butter in small frying pan. Add the pine nuts and a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until they turn golden. Transfer to a plat lined with a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
When the chicken is done, transfer it and the vegetables to a plate and top with the pine nuts and parsley. Sprinkle more za’atar and sumac to taste.