Chicken Maftool

I was in a small cramped kitchen in a refugee camp near Bethlehem with the director of the YMCA and a Palestinian refugee woman called Nisreen.  We were talking about a project that we were setting up to try to help women increase their incomes and we were looking for ways for her to get involved.  ‘I don’t know’, Nisreen said ‘I already have a very good business.  Everyone comes to me because they know I make the best maftool’.  From what we knew that was true and it was exactly why we wanted her to have a lead role in the maftool cooperative that we hoped would supply some big companies in Palestine.

The truth is that very few women make maftool- a giant cous cous traditional to Palestine made by rubbing water and flour together by hand for hours through smaller and smaller sieves followed by a process of steaming and drying- at home anymore.  My mother remembers her mother and grandmother making it every month to last them for several meals.  But I have only ever seen women in cooperatives or people like Nisreen making it to sell on.  And whether you are buying it form a lady in the local refugee camp, or a women’s cooperative or even one of the supermarkets springing up in Palestine, most women aren’t making it themselves.  However, we are all still eating it and cooking it at home so that part of the tradition is well and truly alive!  This is not only great for our food culture, but also for the hundreds of women who rely on maftool for their income.

You can get proper Palestinian maftool from companies like zaytoun and most supermarkets now sell (inferior) machine made giant cous cous.

Serve this chicken matfool with a vegetable broth and yoghurt.


4 whole chicken legs

1 400g can chickpeas

1 onion

1 ½ cup maftool

1 ltr chicken stock

1 tbsp ground caraway

1 tbsp ground mixed spice

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tbsp sea salt

1 tbsp ground allspice

½  tsp ground cinnamon

½  tsp ground cardamom

½  tsp ground nutmeg

Several glugs of extra virgin olive oil

Handful of blanched almonds, toasted



  • Preheat the oven to 190C and mix all the spices and salt in a bowl
  • In a large bowl add half the spice mix, some olive oil and the chicken and coat well
  • Fry the spiced chicken in a pan until golden and then transfer to the oven for 30 minutes
  • In the same pan, add the onions and more oil.  Stir until the onions are soft.
  • Add the drained chickpeas to the onion and the rest of the spice mix.
  • Add the maftool and coat in the onion and spice chickpea mix.
  • Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for another 15-20 minutes until the liquid has gone
  • Serve with the chicken on top of the maftool and chickpea mix, the scatter the almonds over and serve with yoghurt and vegetable broth

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