This Mushakan tart preserves the original flavours of the traditional Palestinian dish. Its deliciously garnished with toasted pine nuts, unevenly tanned between hues of honey and wheat. Every bite is a moist bundle of crispy zesty sumac chicken, onions and crisp pastry that weeps moist tears of olive oil and chicken renderings.
I first read the story of musakhan a few years ago on the blog of a Dubai-based Palestinian food artisan and cookbook author, Dima Sharif. A masterful storyteller, she explained how musakhan was a dish used by the Palestinians to gauge the quality of the olive oil pressed on their farms that season. Good olive oil will not change colour or turn bitter when it is heated to brown the chicken and caramelize the onions. This is also why the name of the dish is derived from the word ‘sakhan,’ to heat.
Muna Rahim shares this lovely contemporary version of Musakhan from a cookbook called “When Suzanne Cooks” by chef Suzanne Husseini. The recipe offers the same delicious flavours of the traditional recipe, with the delicious butter crispiness of the tart.
- 1.5 hours
- 1 hour
- 6 – 8 pax
For the Pastry (Or, to save time, use your favourite store bought shortcrust pastry)
- 225 gm plain flour
- 100 gm butter, diced
- Pinch of salt
For the Filling
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil + ¼ cup extra light olive oil
- 8 medium onions, cut in thin half-moon slices
- 4 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 4 tbsp sumac
- 6 chicken breasts
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- ¼ cup pomegranate seeds
- ½ cup pine nuts, sautéed until golden
- Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the salt then add 2-3 tbsp cold water and mix to a firm dough. Knead the dough briefly and gently on a floured surface.
- Wrap in cling film and chill for an hour.
- Sprinkle a rolling pin lightly with flour. Roll out the dough using short sharp strokes to avoid stretching, giving the dough a quarter turn each time you roll to keep the shape.
- When the dough is about 5 cm larger than the pie dish, lift it up draped over the rolling pin and lay it across the dish. Press the dough into the sides using your fingers, do not trim the edges. Chill for 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 180 C.
- Fill the pastry top with baking paper and add baking beans or rice to weigh it down.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then take out of the oven and trim the edges neatly around the pie dish.
- Remove the paper and beans and cook the pastry for another 10 minutes.
- Set aside until ready to use.
- Put about a quarter cup of olive oil in a pot and on medium heat sauté sliced onions and sliced garlic cloves.
- Sprinkle in the sugar and some salt to taste.
- Cook gently, stirring frequently until the onions have caramelized and are very soft.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the sumac, and salt & pepper to taste.
- Put mixture into a strainer and let sit for at least an hour to drain the excess oil.
- Meanwhile, coat the chicken breasts with olive oil, salt, pepper and sumac and roast in the oven until done yet still juicy (do not overcook).
- Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Re-warm the caramelized onions and then spread on the pastry.
- Thinly slice the chicken and organize neatly on top of the onions.
- Garnish with pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Tanya knew that Palestine was her symbolic homeland. Always curious about her identity and connecting with her roots, she was eager to strengthen her ties to the Levant and traveled the region, desperate to learn more. It wasn’t until her first trip to Palestine that she became spiritually and emotionally connected.
She studied Political Science and Sociology at the University of Toronto. She then moved to the UAE, supporting numerous NGOs related to children’s welfare in the region. When she had her own family, she created the My Olive Roots platform in the hopes that her children and the Arabs diaspora would have a place to connect, learn and preserve their roots. Tanya enjoys discovering humanist stories and exploring the connection of food and art with culture.