And finally we get to the centre-piece, Yotam’s chicken, resting here on a bed of herbs; waiting, patiently. Weary travellers will arrive home, with appetites. And we are ready for them, at last. Kitchens filled with cooking smells, don’t you just love them. I’ve been in that precious room all day, mostly reading after the fun part was over, with a pot of fresh-brewed coffee on the side. The eating comes soon.
The star of the show – Sumac-marinated baby chickens stuffed with bulgar & lamb.
For the main course you will need:
4 baby chickens – one large one here; 1 bunch mixed herbs – bay leaves, rosemary, sage, thyme – to line the serving dish; Greek yoghurt to serve. And for the marinade: 70ml vegetable oil; 4 cloves garlic, crushed; 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon; 1.5 tsp paprika; 2.5 tsp sumac; 1 tsp ground allspice; 0.5 tbsp. salt. And the stuffing: 100g butter; 260g lamb mince; 90g bulgar wheat; 220ml water or chicken stock; 1 tsp ground allspice; 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon; 0.5 tsp salt; 0.5 tsp black pepper; 40g pine nuts; 40g peeled pistachios; 40g sliced almonds.
This is a variation on a Palestinian dish that was served on special occasions (at Yotam’s co-chef Sami’s home). They normally used a regular chicken and the stuffing was made with rice, not bulgar. Still, the idea is the same: a sweet, spiced minced lamb stuffing flavoured by the bird’s juices as it cooks. It’s incredibly delicious and, when the birds are brought to the table on one platter, dramatic. I’ll leave out the bit where he says it goes well with sprouts, veggies and slaw – yeuk.
Here’s what you need to do:
Whisk the marinade ingredients until smooth, pour over the birds and massage in, inside and out. Cover and refrigerate for from 1 to 24 hours.
To prepare the stuffing, melt a teaspoon of butter in a medium pan. When very hot, add the mince and brown over high heat, stirring from time to time, for five minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the bulgar, water or stock, spices, salt & pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for five minutes. The bulgar should absorb all the liquid.
Meanwhile, fry the pine nuts in a pan with half the remaining butter for a minute, add the pistachios and cook for three to four minutes, until the nuts turn golden – take care not to burn them. Add to the bulgar, stir, taste, and adjust seasoning. If you are going to roast the chickens straight away you can use the stuffing while it is still warm. Otherwise let it cool before filling the birds and keep refrigerated until you’re ready to cook.
Preheat oven to 220c/gas7. Put stuffed chickens in a large roasting dish, pour about 250ml of water around them and cover with foil. Roast for 35 mins, then lower temperature to 190c/gas5, remove foil and roast for another 20 mins or so, until golden and cooked through. Check by piercing the thickest part of the leg with a skewer – the juices should run clear. Transfer to a platter lined with herbs and leave to rest for 20mins.
Meanwhile heat the remaining butter in a pan, add the almonds and season. Saute for 3 to 4 mins, until golden, then tip over the birds. Serve with the yoghurt on the side – or not as the case may be.
So, back to the packet of sage & onion mix next time?