Sunday, May 15, 2011

Circassian Chicken Pita Pockets

Being fairly obsessed with food means (happily) that gifts heading my way are often food themed. Case in point:

Awesome aprons made by my Aunty Heather specially for us for Christmas

Also in my Christmas stocking this year was a Turkish cookbook - my sister and her husband visited Turkey and Israel last year and she managed to track down a cookbook in English (always a bonus) to bring back for me.

It's not just any cookbook, though - it's personalised! My sister went through it before giving it to me and added stories about their travels and what they ate while overseas. It really brings the book alive - and makes it so much more special. She also provides some background information that the author (being, presumably, Turkish, and therefore accustomed to such things) takes as given, such as the kosher requirement not to eat meat in the same meal as dairy products - which suddenly makes it clear why margarine is such a common ingredient in these recipes.

There are lots of yummy looking recipes (margarine aside, sorry but I'm not a fan!) including classics such as baklava (and actually, yay, heaps of desserts - this is my kind of cookbook) and kebab variations, as well as lots of delicious-looking but previously unknown recipes I'll have to try out. 

Circassian chicken is a dish we've wanted to try making for a while, as it was served at Coney Wines when we did the Meandering Vineyard Lunch back in February. While the version in the cookbook (above) looks pretty different to the dish we were served at Coney the key elements matched up; variations on a theme. The Coney one was more like a crust on a piece of chicken; the one in the book has the chicken shredded up in a sauce.

We figured going souvlaki-styles and serving the saucy cookbook version in pita pockets would be a nice way to bring a bit of salad in, and it seemed like a good weekend meal - feels like takeaways without costing an arm and a leg or adding too many inches to the waistline. ;-)

The chicken is poached, and the recipe actually called for a whole chicken, which is probably more cost effective if you're feeding a crowd, but actually two chicken breasts served us well for two nights running, so I've adjusted the recipe accordingly. If you are feeding a larger group and increase the quantities of the other stuff feel free to go for a whole bird, though!

It's actually pretty quick to throw together, you just have to plan for poaching time. Our meat took about 20 minutes - with about two minutes' prep. 

The other component is the walnutty sauce/crust. There's a bit of room to play with this - walnuts and breadcrumbs are the main ingredient, with cayenne pepper, paprika and garlic to flavour. You could amp up the cayenne a little if you like it spicy, or leave it out if you're heat averse (ours was gently hot). Note that the recipe made much more of this than we could reasonably eat so I've reduced the quantities below.


The nutty stuff starts out as a dry mixture, and you add stock (from cooking the chicken) to liquefy it. This means that you can make it quite saucy, as in the cookbook photo, or, as we did, into a spreadable paste which works well in the filled pita scenario. I found after adding the liquid that ours was still a bit coarse so popped it back in the food processor thing to blitz it again. It still wasn't perfectly smooth but I quite like a bit of texture.

The pita pockets were very tasty, and very filling. Quite a different flavour to what we generally eat, but then walnuts are not generally a major feature in our dinners. We didn't quite manage to make ours quite as tasty as the Coney version - they did a better job of capturing the lemon flavour - but practice makes perfect, right? ;-)

Have you ever been given something that's been personalised specially for you?

Circassian Chicken Pita Pockets (adapted from Gonul Candas' Turkish Table)
500g chicken
1 onion, quartered
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 lemon
70g walnuts, ground
1 slice of bread (stale is fine), crumbed
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp oil
salt and pepper
parsley, chopped

pita pockets and lettuce to serve

Rub the chicken with lemon juice by cutting the lemon in half and squeezing the halves gently as you run them over the surface of the meat. Cover and leave to sit for 20 minutes.

Bring three cups of water to the boil and add the onion, peppercorns, bay leaf and chicken. Cover and cook on a low heat for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

In a bowl, combine walnuts, bread, cayenne, paprika, garlic, and oil, and mix to combine. Add stock from the chicken to create a paste or sauce (to your preference). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Warm pita pockets in a non-stick frypan, then cut open and spread with the walnut mixture. Fill with lettuce and chicken and top with parsley. Add a squeeze of lemon if desired. Serves 4.


  1. Mrs Cake's MotherMay 16, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    Dad says he would like to taste this too.

  2. Well, you have the recipe. ;-)

  3. What a lovely gift! And your aprons are very cute :D
    This recipe sounds lovely - I really like walnuts and nutty-paste-sauce type things like this. But margarine...can't deal with that at all!

  4. It's actually brilliant, an annotated cookbook - I'm going to keep it in mind myself, too good an idea not to steal. ;-) And I was truly perplexed about the abundance of evil Marge (remember those ads - the evil Marge leering out of the fridge in the middle of the night?) until I figured out the kosher thing.


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