|Picture by Steve Shanahan|
First published Canberra Times Newspaper 22 April 2015.
You suspect that you‘re on a winner when your dinner guests go unusually quiet, and the only thing that fills the conversational void is the clang of cutlery on plates. Confirmation comes when your guests finally break their silence to ask for a second helping.
Tender chicken pieces cooked in caramelised onion and spiked with the tartness of sumac make a perfectly messy finger food when partnered with home made flatbread. Add a salad and bingo, a complete and easy meal. This dish can also be presented as a pulled chicken flatbread slider.
While the recipe isn’t difficult or particularly complex, all the flavour components work together seamlessly. It’s as simple as that.
Don’t be intimidated by the quantity of sumac required in the recipe. This spice provides the unique piquancy to the dish, so distinctive in Turkish and Middle Eastern food. Sumac can be purchased at delis or supermarkets, and sold fresh in quantity at the Nut Shoppe at Fyshwick Markets.
1 ½ cups plain flour, extra for rolling dough
1 tsp salt
¾ cup water, warmed
1 ½ tsp dry yeast
1 large chicken, quartered
ground black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup ground sumac
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large yellow onions, minced finely in a food processor
1 tbsp honey
1 small chilli, chopped finely
½ cup chicken stock
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup slivered or flaked almonds
Combine and mix the flour and salt together in a bowl and set aside. Combine the water, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, firstly mixing together lightly by hand. Allow the yeast mixture to sit for about ten minutes to develop foam on the surface. After the foam has developed, turn the stand mixer to a low speed, and slowly add the flour and salt, mixing until a dough forms and the mixture pulls together into a mass. This should take about three to four minutes.
Form the dough into a ball and cover the mixer bowl with cling wrap. Leave in a warm place until doubled in size, about one hour.
Wet your hands first before dividing the dough into two balls. Place the balls on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Cover the balls with a damp, clean tea towel and set aside for about forty-five minutes.
In a large bowl, toss the chicken quarters with half of the olive oil, 3 tbsp of the sumac, half each of the allspice and cinnamon and half of the minced onions. Add a good pinch of pepper and salt and set aside to marinate for about half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 220C. Heat a large non-stick frypan over medium high heat and add the chicken quarters, cooking until browned on both sides, about six to eight minutes. Transfer the chicken pieces to an open ovenproof dish or pan, skin side up. Pour over the chicken stock, and place in the oven for thirty to forty minutes to cook. If the chicken is browning too quickly, place some aluminium foil loosely across the top of the pan. The chicken should be tender and pulling from the bone when done. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the chicken pieces to a plate to keep warm and cover with aluminium foil. Save the pan drippings in a separate small bowl.
Add the remaining oil to the frypan and place over a medium heat. Add the remaining onions and cook until golden brown, this should take about twenty minutes. Stir in the remaining sumac, allspice and cinnamon, also adding the chopped chilli, honey, salt and pepper to taste. Lower heat slightly and continue to cook for another few minutes, until the mixture is dark and pasty. Transfer the onion paste to a dish.
Wipe the frypan clean with paper towel and melt the butter over medium to high heat. Add the almonds and cook until golden, about three minutes.
Increase the oven temperature to 220C. Working with one dough ball at a time, on a floured benchtop, roll the dough into a thin disk, about twenty-four centimetres across. Perfect circles aren’t required, rustic shapes are the order of the day here. Transfer to an oven tray lined with baking paper. Brush the dough with the reserved pan drippings and spread half the onion paste over the dough, leaving a thin border around the edge. Repeat the process with the second ball of dough. Bake until the bread is puffed and golden, about ten minutes. To serve, cut the flatbread into wedges and place on four plates. Arrange the chicken over the flatbread, sprinkle with the almonds and drizzle with any remaining pan juices.
Serve with a parsley, tomato and onion salad adding a touch of mint and figs if in season.