Musakhan (Palestinian Chicken With Flatbread)

Nadir Abu-Seif

1 hour

4 servings

Photography: Dor Kedmi

Musakhan, or roast chicken served on a thin wide pita covered generously with chopped onion, sumac, and olive oil, is a quintessentially Palestinian dish. Jaffa-born cook Nadir Abu-Seif was taught this dish by her mother, who is originally from Taibeh. Nadir explains: “The peasants who live in the villages prepare musakhan all the time. Like the Bedouin’s mansaf, or Jaffa’s sayadieh, musakhan is their daily food.”

Nadir adds that she likes to serve musakhan alongside a sauce called mish made with yogurt, peppers and fenugreek. Nadir testifies that she refrains from cooking with baharat, a common spice mixture used in musakhan, because “it contains spices that I am not willing to bring into the house.” Hence, she uses bahar, or ground allspice. She also likes to add garlic powder, chicken seasoning, paprika, and bouillon powder.

Peer into Nadir Abu-Seif’s Jaffa kitchen.

Chicken

Ingredients

  • For the onions
  • 5 onions, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) olive oil
  • Salt
  • ½ tablespoon ground allspice
  • 2 tablespoons sumac
  • For the chicken
  • 2 chicken leg quarters
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1½ tablespoon sumac
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed 
  • ½ lemon, juiced 
  • To serve
  • 3 taboon flatbreads

Preparation

  1. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and fry until the onion becomes translucent. Turn off the heat, season with sumac, salt, ground allspice and mix well. Leave the onion in the pan.
  2. Prepare the chicken: As the onions cook, place the chicken legs in a pot and cover with water. Add ¼ tablespoon ground allspice, season generously with salt and black pepper and bring to a boil. Cook for 3 minutes and turn off the heat. Add 1½ cups of the cooking liquid to the pan with the onion, and cook over a medium heat until the liquids are reduced by half. Discard the remaining cooking liquid in the chicken pot.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C. Brush the chicken leg quarters with olive oil and season with sumac, cumin, paprika, crushed garlic, lemon juice and salt. Place into a small roasting pan that can fit the chicken. Roast in the oven 25 minutes.
  4. Spread each flatbread with the onion mixture, stack them on top of each other and place the roast chicken on top. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the edges of the flatbreads are golden. Serve immediately.

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