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Cerkez Tavugu – Circassian chicken with walnut sauce

Cerkez Tavugu; Circassian chicken with walnut sauce; simply delicious and wholesome

Cerkez Tavugu; Circassian chicken with walnut sauce; simply delicious and wholesome

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.

Signed copies of Ozlem’s Turkish Table book, available to order at this link

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.

Afiyet Olsun,


Serves 6-8
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.

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