Spatchcock Sutton Hoo chicken with thyme and sumac

Sumac is an incredibly versatile Middle Eastern spice with a tangy lemony taste. It pairs perfectly with full-flavoured Sutton Hoo chicken as well as game, lamb, fish and vegetables. Here, its incredible flavour creates a mouthwatering marinade, but you can also use it for dry rubs and dressings, as well as a condiment alongside salt and pepper.


  • Two 1.5 kg spatchcock Sutton Hoo chickens
  • 6 tbsp sumac, plus extra for dressing
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed to a paste
  • Bunch of thyme, bunch
  • 150 ml olive oil
  • Sea salt flakes, 4 pinches
  • Black pepper, 1 tsp ground


  1. Strip the leaves from 10 thyme stems, mix with 6 tbsp sumac, the garlic, olive oil and seasoning. Spread across a dish or tray large enough to contain the spatchcocked chickens. Place the chickens breast side down in the dish and scoop some of the mixture onto the inside of the chickens. Leave for at least 30 minutes.

  2. You’ll need two oven proof frying pans large enough to hold a chicken each Alternatively prepare one chicken first in the pan, then the other, and then finish both in a large roasting dish.

  3. Set oven to 200˚C.

  4. When ready to cook, get the pan hot and place the chicken breast side down into the pan. Using tongs, push the chicken down to be as flat as possible. Push small bunches of thyme into the pan around the chicken (this will burn and add a delicious smokiness). Then turn down the heat to medium/low. Cook for about 10 minutes. This will render off the fat and allow the skin to crisp up.

  5. Occasionally push the chicken down to make sure as much of the skin as possible is in contact with the pan.

  6. Remove from the heat. Turn the chicken over in the pan or transfer to a roasting dish and push the thyme bunches underneath. Spoon left over sumac and olive oil mixture over the bird.

  7. When both birds are ready, Transfer to the oven. Roast for 10 minutes then baste with the pan juices.

  8. Roast for 5–10 minutes more. Push a skewer into the thickest part of the breasts to make sure the juices run clear, or use a meat thermometer and check temperature has reached 75˚C.

  9. If you like you can finish the chickens under a hot grill for 2 minutes to really crisp up the skin. But make sure you don’t burn it.

  10. (Alternatively to the above, you could use indirect or low heat on a barbecue to roast both birds for about 40–50 minutes over coals, breast side up, and then finish skin side down for 1–2 minutes.)

  11. Remove from the oven, spoon over the pan juices and sprinkle over some more sumac. Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes.

Thank you to Sutton Hoo Chicken for sharing this recipe with us. 

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