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Fragrant chicken with sumac onions

The list of spices here may seem overwhelming, but rest assured they combine to create the most fragrant chicken you'll come across.

By Emma Knowles
  • 30 mins preparation
  • 30 mins cooking plus marinating, resting, standing
  • Serves 4
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Fragrant chicken with sumac onions
The flavours will be best when the bird is marinated overnight, but a few hours will still do the trick. A bowl of thick Greek yoghurt on the side would be lovely, too.


  • 2 tsp each coriander seeds and cumin seeds
  • 1½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 5 cloves
  • 2 small dried red chillies
  • 2 tsp dried rose petals (see note)
  • 3 tsp each sumac, ground cinnamon and curry powder
  • ¾ tsp each ground allspice, ground ginger and ground fenugreek
  • ½ tsp finely grated nutmeg
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced to paste with 1 tsp salt
  • 1 chicken (about 1.8kg), butterflied, halved, skin slashed twice on each half
  • For drizzling: olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
  • ½ cup each (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley, mint and coriander
  • 50 ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • To serve: warmed pita bread (optional)
Sumac onions
  • 1 small Spanish onion, thinly sliced into rings
  • 2 tsp sumac
  • Finely grated rind of 1 lemon, juice of ½


  • 1
    Dry-roast coriander and cumin seeds, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, chillies and rose petals in a small frying pan until fragrant (1-2 minutes), then cool and finely grind with a mortar and pestle. Combine with sumac, cinnamon, curry powder, allspice, ginger, fenugreek and nutmeg, mix in garlic paste, then rub all over chicken. Place in a non-reactive pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to marinate.
  • 2
    Heat a barbecue to medium-high heat. Wipe excess spice mixture from chicken, drizzle with a little oil and season to taste with salt. Barbecue, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through and juices run clear when pierced (20-25 minutes). Transfer to a tray, squeeze half the lemon over and set aside to rest (10 minutes).
  • 3
    Meanwhile, for sumac onions, combine ingredients and ½ tsp sea salt in a bowl, mix well and set aside to soften slightly (12-15 minutes).
  • 4
    Toss herbs, extra-virgin olive oil and remaining lemon juice in a bowl, season, then pile onto a plate with sumac onions and serve with chicken, the resting juices, pita bread and extra sumac.


Note Dried rose petals are available from select delicatessens and Middle Eastern grocers.
Drink Suggestion: Sour cherry ale. Drink suggestion by Max Allen