During the Ottoman reign, the Sultans took a particular liking to women of Circassian origin and many were captured to serve in the harems as concubines and wives. These fair beauties delighted the Sultans and with them came this dish. Originally the dish was made with fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, used liberally in Circassian cuisine and I love it this way. However the palace chefs decided to create their own tamer version. This is a great option for a light lunch, served with a green salad and toasted bread or steamed vegetables. This meze also makes a great sandwich filler!
You can also spice up your left over chicken roast with this walnut sauce, as well as a delicious use for your fleft over bread. No cream, no mayonnaise, just with such a tasty, healthy dressing, you can create a delicious chicken dish.
Turkish cuisine has such a rich culinary heritage; it is also healthy and Turkish recipes are easy to make – it is a pleasure to share our authentic Turkish recipes here in my blog and also at my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland. Signed copies of Ozlem’s Turkish Table are available at this link and it is delivered promptly, worldwide including US and Canada, if you’d like to get a copy.
Preparation time – 30 minutes Cooking time – 1 hour
1 Whole chicken, trimmed of excess fat OR
225 gr / 8 oz chicken breast and 225 gr/8 oz chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
350 gr/12 oz walnuts, crushed
4 slices of stale bread, crusts removed * (you can use gluten-free bread to make this dish gluten-free)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed with salt
10 ml/ 2 teaspoon Turkish red pepper flakes – if not available, paprika or cayenne pepper
1 small bunch of coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
For the garnish:
30 ml/ 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
5 ml/1 teaspoon Turkish red pepper flakes/paprika flakes
1 handful shelled walnuts, chopped
Roughly chopped coriander (cilantro)
Combine the chicken leg and breast, the onion and water to almost cover the chicken in a large pan, season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until the chicken is tender. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to cool. When it is cool enough to handle, discard the skin (if whole chicken used), strip the meat from the bones, tear into thin strips and put to one side. Reserve the cooking liquid.
For the walnut dressing, soak the bread in a little of the reserved cooking liquid. Squeeze dry and crumble the bread into a bowl with walnuts, garlic cloves, salt and red pepper flakes. In a food processor blitz these together to form a paste. Add a spoonful at a time of the reserved cooking liquid until a creamy consistency is obtained. Fold in the coriander (cilantro) leaves and season with salt and pepper if needed.
In a bowl, combine the chicken pieces with half the walnut dressing. Pour onto a serving plate and cover with the remaining sauce. You can refrigerate at this stage until required.
Heat the extra virgin olive oil and add the Turkish red pepper flakes, cook gently for about a minute. To serve, sprinkle the dressed chicken with chopped walnuts, sprigs of coriander (cilantro) and a drizzle of the red pepper flakes / paprika infused oil over it.
This is a simple, but by no means a simplistic dish. It was Ataturk's favorite, and it is mine as well.
This is so delicious. I’ve shared it with friends and we all agree that it is the most delicious chicken salad we’ve ever had. The recipe portions are well balanced and the procedure is clearly written. Well done, ma’am.
Hi Kristin, thank you so much for stopping by, I am so glad you all enjoyed this chicken salad. I love it too, as the creamy sauce of the chicken stock, garlic, bread crumbs and walnuts are so healthy yet so delicious – one of our favorites!
Hi Ozlem how do most people typically eat this? With bread or topped over a pilaf?
Hi Cali, this is mostly served as a mezze and enjoyed with slices of pita bread or crackers. Having said that, you can also serve with rice if you like and a green salad aside for a complete meal – we love it, hope you enjoy it too!
Hi Cali, it is basically a mezze and most folks would eat with flat breads or some with crackers in town. Though I’ve seen some eating with some rice and salad aside too, personal choice!
If I use peanuts instead of walnut, and add cinnamon and cardamom (Daruchini) to make it more close to North Indian taste, what is your opinion?
Hi, that’s an interesting combination, I am sure the flavors would complement well in a different way, it will be sweeter and more fragrant – quite a different taste than our version, but why not. Glad it inspired and I hope you enjoy it.
This could be delicious wrapped in a crepe. If you had a guest who doesn’t like cilantro would the wide leaf parsley be a good substitute or would it alter the taste too much? thanks, Deborah
Merhaba dear Deborah, yes indeed you can use flat leaf parsley, also widely used these at home too. Cerkez Tavugu would be wonderful wrapped in a crepe, delicious idea, also wonderful over toasted bread too – Afiyet Olsun, Ozlem
I have fond memories of Circassian Chicken served at Gatwick Manor 50 years ago under the watchful gaze of the owner, Mr Nevvar Hickmet.
How nice, happy memories, I hope you enjoy recreating this lovely recipe here, Afiyet Olsun, Ozlem
Sounds delicious! Will be trying it this week. Thanks!
Many thanks and Afiyet Olsun!
Thanks for posting this recipe for one of my favorite dishes (my father was a full-blooded Çerkez Turk). I’m intrigued by the lack of acid in the dressing — I seem to recall versions of the walnut sauce that included vinegar or lemon juice, and I have made it that way successfully in the past. What is your view on this? Does adding an acidifier make the dish less authentic? (I know that the classic walnut sauce for grilled fish does include vinegar.) Also, I have made the dish with roast rather than poached chicken. Again, is that inauthentic?
Merhaba Cevat, many thanks for stopping by; I reckon with your Cerkez roots, you know the real, authentic version made in your father’s homeland : ) This is the version I came accross, made at the Topkapi Palaca kitchens – it may have changed/edited as it passed through generations. I haven’t experimented myself using vinegar, but why not if you’d like to give it a go, especially if you like the acidic taste. For me, fresh corriander really compliments the garlicy walnut sauce the best. Originally, it is made with freshly cooked/poached chicken but I think the garlicky walnut sauce is a great way to spicy up the left over roast; the meat maybe a bit drier here though, then poached. I hope this helps, Afiyet Olsun, Ozlem