Three exciting Middle Eastern recipes from the Ottolenghi team's new cookbook

National dish of Palestine: Chicken musakhan (sumac-scented roast chicken).
National dish of Palestine: Chicken musakhan (sumac-scented roast chicken). Photo: Jenny Zarins/Ebury Press

Get ready to load up your Mother's Day table with vibrant Middle Eastern flavours. From fragrant chicken to wholesome bakes, Falastin is a journey through Palestinian cooking.   

Written by two members of the Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook team, Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, the book shares 100 modern and contemporary recipes that have been reworked in the Ottolenghi test kitchen for the modern home cook.

Tamimi and Wigley, who co-authored three Ottolenghi books: Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, Jerusalem and Simple, showcase the Palestinian pantry, including olive oil, tahini, feta, sumac, green chillies, lemon and za'atar. 

Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley's new cookbook.
Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley's new cookbook. Photo: Jenny Zarins/Ebury Press

Here are three Palestinian-inspired dishes to be shared and enjoyed.

​Chicken musakhan (sumac-scented roast chicken)

Serves: 4

Musakhan is the hugely popular national dish of Palestine: growing up, Sami ate it once a week, taking a piece of chicken and sandwiching it between a piece of pita or flatbread. It's a dish to eat with your hands and with your friends, served from one pot or plate, for everyone to then tear off some 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 the freshly pressed oil. The taboon bread would be cooked in a hot taboon oven 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 eggplant 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 200C for about 25 minutes for the cauliflower and about 35 minutes for the eggplant.

INGREDIENTS

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  • 1 chicken (about 1.7kg), divided into 4 pieces, or 1kg chicken marylands (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), about 330g
  • 5g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • Salt and black pepper

To serve

  • 300g Greek-style yoghurt
  • 1 lemon, quartered

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. 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 marylands and up to 45 minutes if starting with the whole chicken, quartered. Remove from the oven and set aside. Don't discard any juices that have collected in the tray.
  3. Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large frying pan, about 24cm in diameter, 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 towel (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. 
  4. 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 into two or three large chunks as you plate up. Spoon the remaining onions over 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.
​Chicken musakhan (sumac-scented roast chicken)
Musaqa'a (eggplant, chickpea and tomato bake)
Roasted cod with coriander crust
Extract from Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, $49.99. Photography by Jenny Zarins.
Photos: Jenny Zarins/Ebury Press

Make and bake in advance. Photo: Jenny Zarins/Ebury Press

Musaqa'a (eggplant, chickpea and tomato bake)

Serves: 4 as a main or 6 as a side

Echoes of the Greek dish moussaka are correctly heard here, both in the name and the feel of the dish. It's a vegetarian take on the hearty, humble, healthy and completely delicious traybake. It works well either as a vegie main or as a side with all sorts of things: piled into a jacket potato, for example, or served alongside some grilled meat, fish or tofu.

Getting ahead: You can make and bake this in advance: it keeps in the fridge for up to 3 days, ready to be warmed through when needed.

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 medium eggplants (1.25kg)
  • 120ml olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (160g)
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp tomato puree
  • 2 green peppers, deseeded and cut into 3cm chunks (200g)
  • 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (240g)
  • 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1½ tsp castor sugar
  • 15g coriander, roughly chopped, plus 5g extra to serve
  • 4 plum tomatoes, trimmed and sliced into 1½cm-thick rounds (350g)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C.
  2. Use a vegetable peeler to peel away strips of eggplant skin from top to bottom, leaving the eggplants with alternating strips of black skin and white flesh, like a zebra. Cut widthways into round slices, 2cm thick, and place in a large bowl. Mix well with 75ml of oil, 1 teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper and spread out on two large parchment-lined baking trays. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until completely softened and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C.
  4. While the eggplants are roasting, make the sauce. Put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large frying pan and place on a medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for about 7 minutes, until softened and lightly browned. Add the garlic, chilli, cumin, cinnamon and tomato puree and cook for another minute, or until fragrant. Add the peppers, chickpeas, tinned tomatoes, sugar, 200ml of water, 1¼ teaspoons of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 18 minutes, or until the peppers have cooked through. Stir in the coriander and remove from the heat.
  5. Spread out half the plum tomatoes and half the roasted eggplants on the base of a large baking dish, about 20 x 30cm. Top with the chickpea mixture, then layer with the remaining tomatoes and eggplants. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil, then cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the tomatoes have completely softened. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 20 minutes. Top with the remaining coriander and serve either warm or at room temperature.
​Chicken musakhan (sumac-scented roast chicken)
Musaqa'a (eggplant, chickpea and tomato bake)
Roasted cod with coriander crust
Extract from Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, $49.99. Photography by Jenny Zarins.
Photos: Jenny Zarins/Ebury Press

A 15-minute meal to make, beginning to end. Photo: Jenny Zarins/Ebury Press

Roasted cod with coriander crust

Serves: 4

The combination of fish and tahini is one we find hard to resist, but this works just as well without the tahini sauce if you're looking for a shortcut or want to keep the focus on the lemon. Either way, this is as close to fast food as you can get. It's a 15-minute meal to make, beginning to end. Possibly even less time to eat.

If you are using the tahini sauce, make the whole quantity. It keeps in the fridge for about 4 days and is lovely to have around to drizzle over all sorts of roasted vegetables, meat, fish and salads.

Playing around: Any other meaty white fish works just as well here. Salmon also works well.

INGREDIENTS

  • 60ml olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 50g coriander, finely chopped
  • 2½ tsp fish spice mix (see below)
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 4 large cod loin (or another sustainably sourced white fish), skin on (about 700g)
  • 4 large fresh bay leaves (optional)
  • 2 lemons: cut one into 8 very thin slices, and quarter the other lengthways, into wedges, to serve
  • About 4 tbsp/65g tahini sauce (optional, see below), to serve
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 230C fan.
  2. Put 2 tablespoons of oil into a small saucepan and place on a medium-low heat. Add the crushed garlic and cook for 10 seconds, then add the coriander, fish spice mix, chilli flakes, ¼ teaspoon of salt and a grind of black pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, for the garlic to really soften, then remove from the heat.
  3. Place the cod in a parchment-lined roasting dish, skin side down, and brush with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Season lightly with salt and pepper then spoon the coriander mix on top of each fillet. Spread it out so that the whole top is covered, then top each one with a bay leaf, if using, along with 2 slices of lemon. Roast for 7-8 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. Serve at once, with about a tablespoon of tahini sauce drizzled over, if using, and a wedge of lemon alongside.

Baharat samak (fish spice mix)

Makes: Just over 2 tbsp

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric

METHOD

  1. Place all of the spices in a bowl and mix well to combine. If making more than you need, transfer to a sealed container where it will keep for a month.

Tahini sauce

Makes: 1 medium jar

  • 150g tahini 
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Salt

METHOD

  1. Mix together all the ingredients, along with 120ml of water and ¼ teaspoon of salt. If it is too runny, add a bit more tahini. If it is too thick, add a bit more lemon juice or water. You want the consistency to be like that of a smooth, runny nut butter. It will thicken up when left to sit around, so just give it a stir and some more lemon juice or water every time you use it. It keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days.

This is an edited extract from Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, Ebury Press, $49.99. Photography by Jenny Zarins.