Sumac & lemon chicken with a cucumber cooler

Firstly, my apologies. It’s been an age since my last post but the truth is, it was Christmas, I’m dieting and doing Dry January. A perfect culinary s***storm that left me
bereft of time and motivation but I’m back.

And I am hungry.

Sumac chicken, skoning hot and smokey tasting

I’ve pulled this together after my friend Ursula brought me back some sumac from Morrocco. It’s a spice which packs some heat and depth without the fire breathing longevity of chilli. It has a lemony quality that really comes through if used, as is here, in a marinade.

It’s healthy too… so that’s a bonus

Music to listen to while preparing this dish: ‘Feeling good’ by Nina Simone 


For the chicken

  • 12 Skinless chicken thigh fillets or one medium spatchcock chicken (removing the backbone and flattening)
  • 2 Lemons zested and juiced
  • 1 large tablespoon of Dijon mustard (optional but this helps the chicken caramelize/blacken)
  • A good glug of olive oil
  • 1 heaped tablespoon sumac
  • Extra large pinch of both salt and pepper

For the cucumber cooler

  • 1 Large cucumber peeled and diced
  • 3 spring onions chopped (including the green stems)
  • Large bunch mint, leaves picked and roughly chopped)
  • 400g Greek yoghurt
  • Salt and pepper

Method (for both)

  • In a large, zip lock food bag add the lemon juice and zest, olive oil, mustard (if using), salt and pepper and the sumac. Squish gently till all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  • Add the chicken and ensure it is coated with the marinade. Squeeze the air out the bag and put it in the fridge for an hour. Don’t leave it for longer as the lemon will cure the chook.
  • While this is marinating, start the cucumber cooler.
  • Add diced cucumber, spring onions, mint and yoghurt into a large bowl and mix well.
  • Season with the salt and pepper. This can take a lot so don’t be shy.
  • Once done, put back in the coolest part of the fridge.
  • Heat oven to 200C.
  • Once the chicken’s hour is up, if you’ve spatchcocked it put it in the oven for 45 mins.
  • … If you’ve used thighs, sear them in a hot pan till they are blackened and caramelized – about four minutes each side.
  • Once they are all seared and have a good crunch, transfer to a roasting dish and finish in the oven for 15 – 20 mins until cooked through.
  • Serve with the cucumber cooler and a flourish.

You can also cook this on a barbecue – spatchcock for a guaranteed ‘oooooh’ from your guests or the thighs for ease.

This is quite a smokey and creamy dish so cut through it with a Hirsch Gruner Veltliner Heiligenstein.

Chicken and its cooler in 4 images

1) Preparation of the spices

The sumac and the lemon zest, ready to meet the chicken

2)  Cucumber cooler

The easiest dish – the springs onions make it fresher than raw garlic would

3) It’s in the bag

Ready for the fridge, but make sure the air is out the bag to get the most from the marinade

4) Smokin’

I prepared this in winter, in a small flat, with the windows closed. Things got smoky, fast.

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