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Mussakhan – Auntie Lamia’s Way
Chicken Cooked with Sumac, Olive Oil & Onions

Mussakhan, one of the national dishes of Palestine, is just one of those dishes that you can’t stop eating once you have started. You absolutely have to eat it with your hands – none of this silly fork and knife business please! – the flavour is just more exaggerated when eaten by hand. In Ramallah, in Palestine, they have just submitted the largest mussakhan, which has been accepted in to the Guinness Book of Records. It is more than 4 metres (13 feet) long and weighs more than 1,350kg (2,976lb) – I would love to have a bite of that! This is a very simple, hearty, full-of-flavour dish that you must try. It should be very oniony and dripping with olive oil. The sumac really is the star of the show and turns the bread a beautiful magenta colour. Auntie Lamia always used to make this when she was coming to the end of her visit to London, before going back home to Palestine – it was always her farewell dish.

Recipe and images extracted from Palestine on a Plate: Memories from my mother’s kitchen by Joudie Kalla, photography by Ria Osbourne, published by Jacqui Small (£25)


Serves 6-8

1 whole large chicken, skin on and cut into 4–6 pieces
5 cardamom pods
2 tablespoons sea salt
550–650ml (19–22fl oz) olive oil
12–14 onions, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
150g (5½ oz) sumac
4–6 flat breads
75g (2¾ oz) toasted pine nuts
75g (2¾ oz) toasted almonds
fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to serve


Put the chicken in a saucepan of water with the cardamom and 1 tablespoon of the salt and boil for 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onions, remaining salt, cumin, black pepper and cinnamon for about 45 minutes over a low heat until completely soft but not browned.

Preheat the oven to 220°C fan (240°C/465°F/Gas 9).

Once the chicken has boiled, remove it from the water (you can keep the stock and use it for another recipe, if liked).

Place about 1 tablespoon of the cooked onions onto each piece of chicken and sprinkle some sumac over the top of each one. Place the chicken pieces on a baking tray and bake for 5 minutes until slightly browned on top.

Slather each flat bread with onions, scatter generously with sumac, adding bits of chicken and some toasted nuts and parsley to each one. Repeat for all the remaining breads and pieces of chicken and serve. Rip pieces of bread with the chicken, get messy and eat with your hands.