I have had a wonderful couple of weeks. My husband took me to Paris to celebrate my 30th birthday and it was lovely just to wander round the streets and spend some time together. It is difficult sometimes because we have different "weekends" which means that our only day off together is Sunday, which is generally me recovering from service and him trying to come up with ideas of low impact things we can do together. Somehow making a jigsaw hasn't come up yet... maybe I should suggest it.
After Paris I came home and started prepping for a very exciting job. I got a request from a client to make a Middle Eastern birthday spread to feed 14 people. Dietary requirements: none. Well that was just fab! Being in this industry, particularly nowadays, there is a lot of "well three of us are vegan" or "actually it's a gluten free menu if that's ok". And, because you want people to eat good food that's also relatively healthy, you come up with menus that you hope deliver on flavour as well as the requirements.
So for the first time, I made meat for a private client. And they loved it. I made a traditional Palestinian chicken dish called msakhan. You can make it with chicken pieces (on the bone - always) or with a whole chicken if you wanted to make it as part of your Sunday dinner. I always used pre-portioned pieces because it's easier to serve. It has a great sweetness to it from the onions that are cooked right down and the summaq added gives a great contrasting tartness.
This is such a simple dish to make and it's great for feeding a crowd. I normally serve it alongside rice and salad but roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes are good too.
10 - 12 chicken pieces on the bone
3 tbsp good olive oil
4 large red onions
6 tablespoons of summaq
2 rounds of Lebanese bread
2 tsp salt
Toasted pine nuts to serve
Place your chicken in a saucepan, fill with water and bring to the boil. Simmer until the chicken is fully cooked.
Meanwhile, thinly slice your onions. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add the onions. Cook them slowly until they are soft and sweet and translucent. Then add the summaq and stir it into the onions. Keep it warm on a low heat while you sort out the bread.
Break up the bread into chunks any size you like, but not too small, and lay them in the bottom of an oven dish ready to layer up the chicken.
Once the chicken is cooked, pour three ladle-fuls of stock from the chicken into the onions and simmer for about 2 minutes. Piece by piece, take the chicken and roll it round in the onion and summaq mix. Then lay it on top of the bread. Pour the rest of the onion and summaq over the chicken and if you like, warm everything in the oven for 5 minutes but make sure you cover the dish so that it doesn't dry out.
Serve with toasted pine nuts scattered over the top.