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How to make this filling chicken fatteh from Syria

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How to make this filling chicken fatteh from Syria

The Arabic word fatteh comes from a verb meaning to "shred" or "tear apart", in reference to the torn pieces of pitta that form the base of these dishes.

It's a well-chosen name for a variety of dishes, built on layers of ingredients including chickpeas, stuffed aubergines, artichokes, stewed meat or tahini and garlic yoghurt.

My family usually makes chicken fatteh at the beginning of Ramadan or the start of the year: the idea is that the whiteness of the yoghurt and of the rice symbolise good luck and a pure beginning. For me, chicken fatteh is my favourite as it is comforting and refreshing.

I always like to poach a whole chicken for dishes such as this because any leftover chicken or stock can be used for other meals. However, you can just as easily poach two chicken breasts or thighs, depending on your tastes.

One rule: eat fatteh straight away as the bread will become soggy the longer it sits (although it's too delicious to remain uneaten for long!)

By Mouna Elkekhia, Middle East Eye

Serves: 6 people

Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients

For the chicken

I whole chicken
3 bay leaves
1 onion, quartered
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Aleppo spice mix or Lebanese seven-spice mix*
2 tsps salt
hot water to cover

For the yoghurt sauce

500g (17½oz) plain natural yoghurt
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp tahini
1 tsp salt
190g (1 cup) of uncooked white rice
3 small pitta breads, cut into 2cm squares
chopped parsley and toasted almonds (or pine nuts) to decorate

Note: Lebanese seven-spice mix can be found in most Middle Eastern stores. Otherwise, you can replace with ½ tsp allspice, ¼ tsp ground black pepper, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground nutmeg, ¼ tsp ground cardamom and ¼ tsp ground cloves

Method

To make the chicken and rice

1. Heat one tbsp of oil in a large saucepan. Add the chicken and turn it around to sear the different sides in the oil.
2. Add the quartered onion and the bay leaves. Pour the hot water over the chicken so that it is covered. Add the salt and spices. Bring the water to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer the chicken for 45 mins or until the chicken is cooked through.
3. Remove the chicken from the stock, reserving the stock.
4. Once it is cool enough, remove the bones from the chicken meat and discard. If you have used boneless chicken pieces, shred the chicken pieces into large pieces.
5. Cook the rice in 500ml (2 cups) of hot salted water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 mins until the rice is cooked through.

For the pitta squares

1. Toss the pitta bread in a bowl with some vegetable oil.
2. Transfer it onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
3. Bake at 180°C (355°F) for 10 mins or until the pitta squares are a light golden colour.

To make the yoghurt sauce

1. Mix the yoghurt with the tahini, garlic and salt in a glass bowl.
2. Heat the mixture in a microwave for 1 minute until it is warm. NB: Be careful to not overheat it or the yoghurt will curdle.
3. Alternatively, you can gently heat the yoghurt in a saucepan over medium heat until just warm, again being careful to not overheat it.

To assemble

1. Place the pitta crisps in a deep serving dish (I use a glass baking dish so that the different layers are visible).
2. Using a ladle or large spoon, lightly cover the pitta crisps with some of the warm chicken stock.
3. Cover the bread and stock with a very thin layer of the cooked rice. This stops the bread from becoming soggy too quickly from the yoghurt.
4. Pour the yoghurt sauce over the bread and rice, spreading it out to ensure the dish is evenly covered with the sauce.
5. Spoon the remaining rice over the yoghurt. Place the shredded chicken on top of the rice
6. Decorate it with toasted almonds or pine nuts and the chopped parsley.

Mouna is a London-based chef and member of the Marhabtayn Syrian supper club. She is originally from Aleppo, Syria and has a passion for recreating authentic delicious flavours as a way to share a glimpse into the rich culture and history these dishes come from. You can follow her on Instagram @mounaskitchen or website www.mounaskitchen.com

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Check out my blog for more recipes

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