Feasts from the Middle East: Palestinian Braised Spiced Chicken Pie (Moussakhan)
Kitous says: “I first tried this dish at the home of my Palestinian friend, Haleem, many years ago. His mum cooked it for me, and I was so blown away by the flavours that I now make it whenever I have a lot of people over. Once you’ve tried it, you will always remember the taste because it’s so unusual. It is a typical Palestinian dish, but it’s also popular in other countries in the Middle East. Traditionally this is made with village bread, but you can also make this with Arabic bread, as I did here.”
Palestinian Braised Spiced Chicken Pie (Moussakhan)
1kg boneless, skinless chicken, chopped into large chunks
150ml olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1.5kg onions, sliced
1 tbsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
50ml pomegranate molasses
50g pine nuts, plus extra to garnish
1 packet of village bread or Arabic bread
½ tsp black pepper
chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
Put the chicken in a bowl and add 50ml of the olive oil, the lemon juice, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and the black pepper, and mix together.
Transfer to a roasting tin and spread it out over the base. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes until the chicken is tender. Use two forks to pull apart the largest piece to check it’s cooked through the middle.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 100ml of olive oil in a medium frying pan and fry the onions over a gentle-to-medium heat until they’re very soft. This will take a good 20 minutes; make sure they don’t burn or turn too golden. Keep stirring them every now and then. They should be so soft that when you put them in your mouth, they melt. Take the chicken out of the oven and shred it with two forks or use a knife to cut it into pieces.
If there’s a lot of juice in the pan, drain it off. Stir in the sumac, cinnamon, cardamom, pomegranate molasses, pine nuts and onions, and mix really well to ensure that the sumac coats all the ingredients.
Unwrap the village bread – it’s very thin and delicate so be careful you don’t tear it – and lay two layers of bread in a round 20–22cm cake tin. Spoon the chicken filling into the middle and spread it into the corners with the back of a spoon. Fold the edges over the chicken, then top with another layer of bread. Cover the tin with foil and bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes. Take the foil off for the last couple of minutes to allow the top to crisp up slightly before serving.
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