Za'atar Chicken with Shaved Fennel

Za’atar is a heady Middle Eastern spice mixture of toasted sesame seeds, oregano, cumin and sumac (which adds a wonderful unusual citrus flavor).  It can be used sprinkled on flat breads hot from the oven brushed with olive oil, over poached eggs with lentils or as a punch of flavor to grilled meats.  For a simple summer supper I like to roast or BBQ chicken drumsticks and thighs and roll the hot meat in the dry rub and serve it alongside a simple shaved fennel salad with toasted pine nuts.  It results in really electric bursts of flavor and textures.

Serves 4
12 chicken drumsticks
Juice and zest of one lemon
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper
3 cloves of garlic, finely grated

For the Za’atar
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
4 teaspoons of cumin seeds
4 teaspoons of ground sumac
1 teaspoon of sea salt
A generous handful of oregano leaves, chopped

For the Salad
2 heads of fennel, shaved on a mandolin
50g of pine nuts, toasted

For the dressing
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Sea salt and ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

To make the za’atar, toast the sesame and cumin seeds in a dry pan over a medium high heat for about 2 minutes until the sesame seeds turn golden brown. Place the toasted seeds in a pestle and mortar along with the ground sumac, salt and oregano leaves. Grind to a rough powder.

Place chicken in a roasting dish and toss together with the juice and zest of the lemon, olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper until evenly coated. Sprinkle half of the za’atar over the chicken and place in the oven.

Combine all the ingredients for the dressing in a large bowl. Trim the fennel and shave on the thinnest setting of a mandolin.  Add to the dressing along with the pine nuts and toss until evenly coated.

Remove the chicken from oven and sprinkle over remaining za’atar and serve alongside fennel salad.