Sumac has a citrus-like taste and, in the Middle-East, it’s used in any dish that needs a bit of a tangy bite. In this recipe we’ll need it to marinade our chicken breast. Served with lemon couscous and some of our pickled chillies and home-made toum garlic sauce, it’s an easy and quick to make dinner. But most importantly, it’s very tasty.
We, at the tiny Dutch kitchen, love nothing more than shopping at ethnic supermarkets. Sadly we don’t have these kinds of shops on our doorstep. So when we do get to shop at such a place, we tend buy more than we can carry. Preferably items that are unfamiliar to us.
This is how we found ourselves the new owners of a little bag of sumac. Once home, it was time to start researching. Because not only did we need to find out what sumac was, we also needed to figure out how to use it. As it turned out, sumac is actually a plant. The sumac powder used in cooking, is made from its dried berries. Sumac is also an important component of the za’atar spice mix.
There are several species of sumac but not all of them are edible, some are even poisonous. Sumacs are shrubs or small trees and can be found in different parts of the world, from East-Asia to Africa and North-America. They’re used in many different ways as well. You can find Sumac berries as a spice in food and drinks, as medication or as a dye for fabrics. Leaves from some species are used to tan leather. All in all a very useful plant.
The berries in the powdered sumac, sold as a spice in shops, come from the Rhus coriaria. This species of sumac plant is native to Morocco. Finding a recipe, in which we could use sumac, proved easy. In the Middle-East, it’s used in a large variety of dishes. One recipe I kept finding however, was sumac chicken. So that’s what I decided to try first.
The end result is this recipe for sumac chicken with lemon couscous. Served with some of our pickled chillies and home-made toum garlic sauce. It’s easy and quick to make. But most importantly, it’s very tasty.