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Za’atar roast chicken with pilaf, pomegranate and nuts

This fragrant chicken dish is made to serve in the centre of the table for guests to help themselves. We’ve made the za’atar fresh for a more intense thyme flavour.

By Lisa Featherby
  • 30 mins preparation
  • 1 hr 30 mins cooking
  • Serves 8
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Za’atar roast chicken with pilaf, pomegranate and nuts


  • 40 gm pistachio nuts
  • 40 gm pine nuts
  • 2 chickens (1.5kg each), removed from fridge 20 minutes before cooking
  • 2 onions, thickly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 lemon, plus extra wedges to serve (optional)
  • ½ pomegranate, arils removed
  • Finely chopped coriander and plain yoghurt, to serve
  • 1½ tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1½ tbsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp sumac
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cinnamon quills
  • 2 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 40 gm butter, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 400 gm basmati or long-grain rice, rinsed under cold water (2 cups)
  • 700 ml chicken stock
  • Finely grated rind of ½ lemon


  • 1
    Preheat oven to 180C. Roast pistachios and pine nuts on a baking tray until golden (8-12 minutes). Set aside to cool.
  • 2
    For za'atar, pound herbs with a mortar and pestle until coarsely crushed, then add sesame seeds and sumac, and pound until finely ground.
  • 3
    Rinse chickens inside and out under cold running water, pat dry with paper towels and place in a roasting pan on top of onions. Rub chicken all over with oil, garlic and za'atar, then roast, basting occasionally, until cooked through and juices run clear when thigh is pierced with a skewer (1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes). Increase oven to 250C and roast, basting occasionally, until golden brown (5 minutes). Season to taste with lemon juice and salt and pepper, and rest for 5 minutes.
  • 4
    Meanwhile, for pilaf, sauté onions, spices and bay leaves in butter and oil in a casserole over medium heat until onion starts to caramelise (7-8 minutes). Add rice and stir to coat, then add stock, season to taste and bring to a simmer. Cover, then bake until rice is cooked (15 minutes). Stir in lemon rind, cover with a tea towel and leave to steam for 5-6 minutes.
  • 5
    Place rice on a platter, chop chicken into pieces, arrange on pilaf, top with pistachios and pine nuts, pomegranate, coriander and pan juices, and serve with lemon wedges and yoghurt.


Drink Suggestion: Gutsy, spicy grenache rosé. Drink suggestion by Max Allen