I first came across this dish while working in microfinance in Jordan where we visited poor communities throughout the country. Later, I came across a class of dishes in the tenth-century Kitab al-Tabikh called maghmumat (the plural of “enclosed” or “covered” in Arabic and are dishes of different cooked meats and vegetables covered, sometimes layered, with pastry, then baked. Similar to game and pot pies, I don’t know why those dishes have taken the world by storm while these Arab precursors have sunk into oblivion. What I do know: This is one delicious dish that deserves to be made time and time again. After all, the evolution of a cuisine is sometimes as simple as recovering its forgotten gems.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C/Gas Mark 6).
- In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine both flours, both seeds, the salt, turmeric, olive oil, and ¾ cup (6 fl oz/175 ml) water. Mix on medium speed until you have a soft ball of dough. Divide into 3 portions: one weighing about 7 oz (200 g) and two around 5 oz (140 g) each. Generously coat the balls with oil, cover with plastic wrap (clingfilm), and set aside to rest for at least 45 minutes.
- Place the chicken in a baking dish and bake until just cooked through, 15–20 minutes. Remove and set aside until cool enough to handle, then shred into small bite-size pieces.
- Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, combine the onions, olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook over medium to medium-low heat until they are completely soft.
- Add the shredded chicken, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, the pepper, and all the spices and stir to combine. Cook for another 1–2 minutes to help the chicken absorb the flavors. Remove from the heat, add the pine nuts and walnuts, and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/Gas Mark 4). Line an 8-inch (20 cm) round nonstick cake pan with parchment paper and grease with olive oil.
- Take the large ball of dough and stretch it out, oiling your hands as often as necessary, to a roughly 12-inch (30 cm) round. Place the rolled dough in the cake pan with the extra dough hanging over the sides. Brush with olive oil. Take half of the filling and spread over the dough.
- Take another ball of dough and flatten out to a thin 8-inch (20 cm) round. Place the dough in the cake pan over the filling, brush with olive oil, and top with the remaining filling. Stretch the final piece of dough to 8 inches (20 cm), place on top, and brush with olive oil. Bring the overhanging dough in over this layer and brush again with olive oil.
- Cut an 8-inch (20 cm) round of parchment paper and place over the dough. Tightly seal the pan with aluminum foil. Transfer to the oven and bake for 2 hours. Then remove the foil and paper and cook until crisped and slightly darker in color, 10–15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for a few minutes.
- Place the serving platter over the pie and flip, so the top is at the top again. Serve on its own or with a side of yogurt.
Adapted from THE ARABESQUE TABLE by Reem Kassis
Reem Kassis is a Palestinian food writer and cultural critic. She is the author of the best-selling and award-winning cookbooks The Palestinian Table (2017) and The Arabesque Table (2021). Her other writings have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the LA Times, and The Atlantic in addition to various magazines and academic journals. She grew up in Jerusalem, then obtained her undergraduate and MBA degrees from UPenn and Wharton and her MSc in social psychology from the London School of Economics. She now lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two daughters.