Shredded Chicken with Walnut and Coriander

Çerkez tavuğu

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    6

Appears in

Classic Turkish Cooking

By Ghillie Basan

Published 1995

  • About

This is an Anatolian dish of Circassian origin, although the Armenians also claim it as their own. Its pale colour is believed to reflect the complexions of the Circassian women who, famed for their fair features and beauty, were captured to serve the Ottoman sultans in the harems, as concubines and wives. A true çerkez tavuğu is made with fresh coriander leaves, used liberally in traditional Circassian cooking but omitted by the tamer palates of the Istanbul chefs. If you prefer the Istanbul version, without coriander, finish the dish by spooning a little melted butter and kırmızı biber over the top. A less common dish, prepared in the same way, is çerkez fasulye, which is made with broad beans. Both are ideal for lunch and buffets.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole medium-sized chicken
  • 3 slices dry white bread, crusts removed
  • ¼ pint/150 ml milk
  • 6 oz/175 g walnuts, shelled
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • small bunch of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Stock

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 4 red or black peppercorns
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • salt

To Garnish

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kırmızı biber
  • 3-4 walnuts, finely chopped
  • 6-8 fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

Method

  • Remove the excess fat from the chicken, and put it into a large pan with all the stock ingredients and enough water to almost cover the chicken. Bring the water to the boil, cover the pan and lower the heat, and leave to simmer for about an hour. When cooked, remove the chicken from the pan and leave it to cool a little before taking the meat off the bone — discard the skin. Tear the meat into thin strips and put them into a large bowl. Boil up the stock for a further 15-20 minutes to reduce it. Check the seasoning and strain.
  • Soak the bread in the milk, grind the walnuts and garlic to a paste and beat into the soaked bread (or blend them all together in an electric mixer). Add the mixture to the strips of chicken and bind together with spoonfuls of the warm seasoned stock. Keep adding small quantities of stock until the consistency is light and creamy. Fold in the fresh coriander and season it to your taste. (If not serving immediately, trickle a little extra stock over the surface to keep it moist, and reserve some fresh coriander to fold in at the last minute.)
  • When ready to eat, spoon the mixture on to a serving dish, combine the ingredients for the garnish and sprinkle them over the top.