CHICKEN WITH POMEGRANATE, RAS EL HANOUT STUFFING & LABNEH
SERVES 6 / PREPARATION 30 MINUTES / COOKING 2 HOURS
I much prefer a good chicken to a turkey – the cooking time is shorter and you get more reliably juicy meat. I’ve given the quantity here for one bird, but the stuffing is sufficient for two birds, as I like to have extra alongside. Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice blend that's increasingly readily available at supermarkets and specialty food stores, but I’ve also given a recipe – which will make more than you need, but it’s excellent to use as a rub for lamb steaks, tofu or fish. I suggest you make the labneh for this from my simple recipe in Chop Chop on page 32.
FOR THE CHICKEN
1 size 14 or 16 chicken ¼ cup lemon juice 2 tablespoons olive oil ¼ cup pomegranate molasses 2 cloves garlic, mashed with a little salt Put the chicken on a plate or in a container. Mix together the lemon juice, oil, pomegranate molasses and garlic and rub over the chicken. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours.
FOR THE STUFFING & TO COOK
2 tablespoons olive oil 1 onion, chopped 2 sticks celery, chopped 1 red capsicum, deseeded, chopped 2 teaspoons ras el hanout (bought or made to recipe below) 3 cups fresh breadcrumbs ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted 1 cup flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped 1 egg, lightly beaten 1 batch (300g-400g) labneh (see Chop Chop, page 32) Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion, celery and capsicum and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the ras el hanout and fry for a couple of minutes. Set aside and allow to cool. Mix with the breadcrumbs, pine nuts, parsley and egg. Set aside until ready to stuff the chicken (this should be done on the day you plan to cook it).
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Remove the chicken from the fridge (don't discard the marinade that has run off it). For easy carving, remove the wishbone by gently using a small knife and fingers to ease it out. Season the cavity and fill with some stuffing. Wrap the remaining stuffing in buttered foil. Close the cavity with toothpicks or skewers and tie with string.
Place the chicken in a baking dish, breast side down, angled to one side. Pour over the leftover marinade and ½ cup water or chicken stock. Season generously with salt.
Cook for 20 minutes, brush with the marinade liquid and angle the breast to the other side. Cook for 20 minutes. Flip the chicken so it rests on its backbone and brush with the marinade. At this point add the foil-wrapped stuffing to the oven.
Cook the chicken for another 20 minutes and brush again. Start keeping an eye on the chicken as the skin will darken considerably. If it looks in danger of burning, place a tent of foil or baking paper loosely over the top.
Cook for another 20-30 minutes (total cooking time should be 1 hour 20-30 minutes), testing the legs at the thickest parts (the juices should run clear when pierced with a skewer) to ensure that the bird is cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes, before removing the string and skewers to begin carving.
Carve the chicken and arrange on a platter with the stuffing, labneh and any cooking juices.
RAS EL HANOUT MAKES ¼ CUP
1 teaspoon black peppercorns 1 teaspoon fennel seeds 2 teaspoons coriander seeds 8 cardamom pods 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds 2 teaspoons cumin seeds 1 cinnamon stick 4 cloves 1 teaspoon whole allspice ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon turmeric 1 teaspoon paprika Gently toast the peppercorns, fennel, coriander, cardamon, mustard, cumin, cinnamon, cloves and allspice until fragrant. Combine with the remaining ingredients and grind in a spice grinder or blender until powdered.
WINE A sweet-fruited pinot noir. Try the Mud House Claim 431 Single Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015.