Ottolenghi's Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za'atar, and Lemon

Food is generally a key focus of all my vacations. I'm that person that spends hours weeks in advance of a trip researching restaurants, bars, food markets, etc. and adding them all to a well organized spreadsheet. Geek status I know...but guess what! We always eat well. One such research project focused on our trip to London over a year ago (time flies!). The restaurant I was eyeing? Ottolenghi. 

If you're into buying cookbooks, you've likely come across beautiful books titled "Jerusalem", "Plenty", and more by a chef named Yotam Ottolenghi. He makes beautiful dishes that combine flavors in a way that I haven't found in any of the cookbooks included in my extensive collection.

The thing with chicken is that it can often become a neglected ingredient in the kitchen. We often grill it and roast it, but it's not often that chicken becomes the highlight of our meal (unless I'm making this). In this recipe, Ottolenghi uses a combination of spices inspired by a Palestinian dish called m'sakhan to deliver a tasty and beautiful dish that makes chicken the star of the show.

Don't panic when you read the ingredient list - za'atar and sumac are typically available at Whole Foods. If that isn't an option for you, not to worry. I've included links in the ingredient list below to some substitutes. I neglected to take many pictures during this cooking process but it's so simple I'm confident you don't need a step-by-step guide.

This dish would be served well over a bed of basmati rice or a side of pita bread, and a simple salad. Feeling bold? Place each piece of chicken on top of a slice of french or sourdough loaf (whatever you do, do not reach for the pre-sliced sandwich bread). While this hasn't been Fancy Casual tested with this particular recipe, it's a go-to move I use every time I roast chicken. It soaks up all the delicious pan juices - don't do this if you want some basmati rice to do that for you.

If you're ever in London, don't miss out on the chance to stop by one of Yotam Ottolenghi's many restaurants and try out his dishes yourself. 


Roast chicken with sumac, za'atar, and lemon

From Ottolenghi Cookbook


  • 1 large chicken divided into quarters; breasts and wing, leg and thigh (*I used all bone-in chicken breast)
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • Scant 1 cup chicken stock (or water)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, plus extra
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp za'atar
  • 4 tsp unsalted butter
  • 6 tbsp pine nuts
  • 4 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley (*sadly I forgot this ingredient at the store)


1. In a large bowl, mix the chicken with the onions, garlic, olive oil, spices, lemon, stock, salt and pepper. Pretty much everything...Leave it in the fridge to marinate for a few hours or overnight. 

2. Preheat the oven to 400°F

3. Transfer the chicken and its marinade to a baking sheet large enough to accommodate all the chicken pieces lying flat and spaced well apart. They should be skin side up. Sprinkle the za'atar over the chicken and onions and put the pan in the oven. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is colored and just cooked through. 

4. Meanwhile, meat the butter in a small frying pan, add the pine nuts and a pinch of salt, and cook over medium heat. Make sure to stir constantly until they are golden brown - a pine nut left unattended is usually a burnt one (in my case). Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb the fat. 

5. Transfer the hot chicken and onions to a serving plate and finish with the chopped parsley, pine nuts, and a drizzle of olive oil. You can sprinkle more za'atar, sumac, or s&p for more flavor if you'd like.