This Turkish recipe for lemon and apricot cinnamon chicken was historically served at opulent dinner parties—now you can serve it at home.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, a dish called Balli Mahmudiye was served at opulent dinner parties in the Ottoman capital of Bursa. Originally named after Sultan Mahmud, it was a lavish mix of chicken cooked with apples, raisins, currants, apricots, almonds, and pine nuts—it was a real celebration of ingredients and wealth.
Balli Mahmudiye is still cooked in Turkish restaurants today. It is often toned down, with a shorter list of fruit and nuts, but it retains the same light, lemony sauce.
My recipe uses orzo, which is somewhat lighter than rice and beautifully complements the sweet flavors of the cinnamon and apricots.
Turkish Balli Mahmudiye
- 2 ¼ cups orzo
- 2 tablespoons butter
- A handful of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- A handful of finely chopped dill
- 1 teaspoon Turkish pepper flakes
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 ¼ pounds skinless chicken breasts cut into strips
- 1 onion finely minced
- 1/3 cup blanched almonds heaping
- 2/3 cup dried apricots roughly sliced
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 tablespoons boiling water
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- Sea salt
- Cook the orzo in a pan of boiling water according to the package instructions. Drain and return to the pan. Add the butter and a generous pinch of salt. Stir in the herbs and Turkish pepper flakes.
- Heat the oil in a large pan over high heat and add the chicken.
- Fry for 2 to 3 minutes to seal the meat. Add the onion and almonds and fry for an additional 3 to 4 minutes until golden.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the apricots, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon, black pepper, and a generous pinch of salt. Add the boiling water and continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cornstarch and mix together until thickened.
- Serve immediately with the orzo.