Spatchcock Sutton Hoo chicken with thyme, sumac and mezze dishes

Piri piri Mezze
The addition of sumac, along with thyme and garlic, gives the skin an irresistibly moreish tanginess, and a distinctly middle-eastern feel.

Serves 4–8 (depending on accompaniments)
You will need

  • Two 1.5 kg Sutton Hoo chickens
  • 6 tbsp sumac, plus extra for dressing
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed to a paste
  • Bunch of thyme, bunch
  • 150 ml olive oil
  • Sea salt flakes, 4 pinches
  • Black pepper, 1 tsp ground

To spatchcock the chicken

  • Place chicken breast-side down with the legs towards you.
  • Use sturdy scissors or poultry shears to cut along each side of the parson's nose and backbone, cutting through the rib bones. Remove the backbone (you can keep for stock if you like).
  • Cut away any large pockets of fat at the back of the breasts.
  • Open the bird out and turn it over. Place the heel of your hand on the breastbone and push down to flatten out the chicken.

Method

  1. Strip the leaves from 10 thyme stems, mix with 6 tbsp sumac, the garlic, olive oil and seasoning. Spread across a dish or tray large enough to contain the spatchcocked chickens. Place the chickens breast side down in the dish and scoop some of the mixture onto the inside of the chickens. Leave for at least 30 minutes.
  2. You’ll need two oven proof frying pans large enough to hold a chicken each. Alternatively prepare one chicken first in the pan, then the other, and then finish both in a large roasting dish.
  3. Set oven to 200˚C.
  4. When ready to cook, get the pan hot and place the chicken breast side down into the pan. Using tongs, push the chicken down to be as flat as possible. Push small bunches of thyme into the pan around the chicken (this will burn and add a delicious smokiness). Then turn down the heat to medium/low. Cook for about 10 minutes. This will render off the fat and allow the skin to crisp up. Occasionally push the chicken down to make sure as much of the skin as possible is in contact with the pan.
  5. Remove from the heat. Turn the chicken over in the pan or transfer to a roasting dish and push the thyme bunches underneath. Spoon left over sumac and olive oil mixture over the bird.
  6. When both birds are ready, Transfer to the oven. Roast for 10 minutes then baste with the pan juices.
  7. Roast for 5–10 minutes more. Push a skewer into the thickest part of the breasts to make sure the juices run clear, or use a meat thermometer and check temperature has reached 75˚C.
  8. If you like you can finish the chickens under a hot grill for 2 minutes to really crisp up the skin. But make sure you don’t burn it.
  9. (Alternatively you could use indirect or low heat on a barbecue to roast both birds for about 40–50 minutes over coals, breast side up, and then finish skin side down for 1–2 minutes)
  10. Remove from the oven, spoon over the pan juices and sprinkle over some more sumac. Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes.

Beetroot borani

This dip is based on an Iranian yogurt dish. It makes a stunning addition to any mezze selection and is wonderful for dipping flatbreads. 

Serves 8 (as mezze)
You will need

  • 4 medium raw bunched beetroot (about 650g)
  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed to a paste
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp thick Greek style yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp chopped dill
  • 2 tbsp cabernet sauvignon vinegar, plus a little extra or red wine vingear
  • sea salt to taste 

Method

  1. Cut the tops off the beetroot (leave about a centimetre of stem). Wash but don’t peel it and place into a large pan of water. Cover and bring to the boil.
  2. Cook for about 40 minutes. The beetroot is cooked when it’s tender and a sharp knife can be pushed in easily. Allow to cool then peel and cut off the top and bottom.
  3. Blend the beetroot in a food processor but don’t puree too much as you do want some texture.
  4. In a bowl mix the puree with the other ingredients. Now check seasoning. Add a little salt and taste. You may now require a little more vinegar to balance the flavours. You will want to enhance the earthy sweetness of the beetroot with the vinegar sweet and sour and the herby dill and some salt. Depending on the flavour of the beetroot and the vinegar you may even wish to add a little sugar.

Butter bean and coriander dip

It’s worth getting hold of a jar of the super creamy cooked Spanish beans for this dish or to carefully cook your own dried beans. Canned beans don’t really do it justice.

Serves 4–8 (as mezze)
You will need

425 g cooked judion butter beans

or

250g canned judion beans or butter beans, soaked in cold water for 12 hours with 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, drained, rinsed, then covered with cold water and cooked for 1 ½  to 2 hours until tender

  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • sea salt flakes to taste 

Method

  1. Gently warm the olive oil and soften the garlic. Add the beans and warm through. Mash with a fork but don’t completely puree.
  2. Allow to cool then season and stir through the coriander leaves.

Carrot and black cumin salad

Black cumin is quite different to ordinary cumin. More delicate and fragrant than it’s pungent cousin, it pairs wonderfully with carrot, whether raw or cooked. However, if you can’t get hold of the black stuff, this salad works very well with the regular too.

Serves 4–8 (as mezze)
You will need

  • 2 large carrots (approx. 250 g)
  • 1 tsp black cumin seed (or cumin seed)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • sea salt flakes to taste 

Method

  1. Get a frying pan hot and gently toast the black cumin or cumin seeds until they just become fragrant. Remove immediately from the heat.
  2. Roughly grate the carrot and dress with the other ingredients and the toasted seeds.

Couscous with parsley and pomegranate

It may seem odd to describe the quantity of couscous in millimetres rather than grams but the secret of good fluffy couscous is to have equal volumes of grain to water.

Serves 4–8 (as mezze)
You will need

  • 400 ml couscous
  • 400 ml boiling water
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • sea salt flakes
  • black pepper
  • handful pomegranate seeds
  • handful roughly chopped parsley

Method

  1. Measure out the couscous in a bowl or better still a large measuring jug.
  2. Pour over an equal volume of water and cover.
  3. Allow to steam and absorb for about 10–15 minutes.
  4. When all the water is absorbed, fluff up the couscous with a fork. Blend in the olive oil. Stir through the lemon juice and seasoning.
  5. Finally mix in the parsley and pomegranate.

Fennel-seed roasted tomatoes

This method really intensifies the flavour of the tomatoes. The tomato skins are like contains for blobs of spicy tomato ketchup.

Serves 8 as mezze
You will need

  • 40 cherry plum tomatoes
  • 4 tsp crushed fennel seeds
  • 4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
  • sea salt flakes to taste 
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 tsp cabernet sauvignon vinegar

Method

  1. Heat oven to 200˚C
  2. Crush the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar then mix with all other ingredients except the tomatoes.
  3. Slice each of the tomatoes in half, place in a bowl and coat well with the fennel seed mixture.
  4. Arrange tomatoes cut side up on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 10 minutes. When they look nicely roasted (crinkly and starting to colour) take them out, and tip back into the bowl with the fennel seed mixture. Allow to cool.
  5. If you have time you can turn off the oven after 5 minutes and leave the tomatoes in for a few hours, preferably overnight. They will dry out and the flavours will be even more intense.

Radish, yogurt and mint salad

This is a variation on Turkish cacik or Greek Tzatziki. The radish provides a distinctly different and spicier crunch to cucumber and gives the dip a beautiful rosy hue.

Serves 4–8 as mezze
You will need

  • 8 radish, halved and very thinly sliced
  • 450g thick Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 2–3 tbsp finely shredded fresh mint
  • 3–4 pinches sea salt flakes

Method

  1. Blend the ingredients together and season to taste.

Flatbreads

Makes about 10 small breads or alternatively just buy some
You will need

  • 300 g strong white bread flour
  • 200 g plain white flour
  • 10g salt
  • 5g dried yeast
  • 340 ml tepid water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for preparation

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Knead for 5–10 mins until smooth and elastic.
  3. Form into a ball. Grease a clean bowl with olive oil and roll the dough around this to lightly coat all over. Keep the dough in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and rest for 45 minutes in a warm place.
  4. Either bake in the oven or grill over charcoal or a grill pan.
  5. If using the oven set to 200˚C, or get the barbecue ready or the grill pan hot.
  6. Pull off walnut sized pieces of dough and, with a rolling pin, roll out until about ¼ centimetre thick and roughly round (about 15 cm diameter).
  7. Place on to a baking sheet and into the oven for about 5 minutes, until bubbles just start to appear on the surface the edges are just starting to colour.
  8. Alternatively, place directly onto the grill pan or barbecue grill, turning over as bubbles start to appear on the top and cook until just starting to colour at the edges.
Abi Fawcus