Circassian Chicken

This is a classic Turkish dish which is quite unlike anything I’ve tasted before. I’ve eaten it many times, but never made my own until now. It’s actually not too difficult, but does take a little time. The results are spectacular. It’s a kind of pate made from shredded chicken mixed with a deliciously rich yoghurt and walnut sauce. It’s a great cold meze dish or even better starter served with some crusty bread or toast.

To poach the chicken:

1 large chicken
1 onion (quartered)
1 sprig parsley
1 sprig thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 lemon
5 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds

Walnut Sauce:
150g walnuts
30g butter (unsalted)
1 onion (finely diced)
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons paprika (sweet)
1/2 teaspoon paprika (hot)
2 slices bread (crusts removed)
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
120g natural yoghurt
1 tablespoon fresh coriander (chopped)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley (chopped)

To poach the chicken:

Combine chicken and all the poaching ingredients in a large pan and cover with 2 litres of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let the chicken sit for a further 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan, cover and cool completely. When cool, shred the chicken using a fork and reserve the meat.

Strain the stock, skimming off any impurities that rose to the surface and set aside.

To make the walnut sauce:
Soak the bread in a little of the chicken stock and set aside.

Heat the butter in a small pan over a low/medium heat and gently fry the onion, garlic, hot and sweet paprika for 10 minutes until soft. Set aside.

Add the walnuts to a food processor and whiz until you have a fine consistency. Add the onion mixture and blend till you have a smooth texture. Squeeze the bread then crumble it into processor along with the salt, pepper and lemon juice. As the processor blends, gradually pour in about 250ml of the reserved chicken cooking liquid until the sauce resembles a thick mayonnaise.

Spoon into a large mixing bowl and thoroughly mix in the shredded chicken, yoghurt and coriander and parsley. Check for seasoning then chill in the fridge for at least an hour to develop the flavours.

I served it simply sprinkled with a little smoked paprika alongside some crusty toasted bread and a generous drizzling of extra virgin olive oil.

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