Photo by: Colin Campbell

Sumac-marinated baby chickens stuffed with bulgar & lamb

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4 baby chickens
1 bunch mixed hard herbs (bay leaves, rosemary, sage, thyme), to line the serving dish
Greek yogurt, to serve
For the marinade
70ml vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp paprika
2½ tsp sumac
1 tsp ground allspice
½ tbsp salt

For the stuffing:
100g butter
260g lamb mince
90g bulgur wheat
220ml water or chicken stock
1 tsp ground allspice
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
40g pine nuts
40g peeled pistachios
40g sliced almonds

A variation on a Palestinian dish that was served on special occasions at 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. This goes well with sprouts, root vegetables and slaw. Serves four.

Method

Whisk the marinade ingredients until smooth, pour over the birds and massage in, inside and out. Cover and refrigerate for from one to 24 hours.
To prepare the stuffing, melt a tablespoon 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 and pepper. Bring to a 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 the 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. Keep refrigerated until you're ready to cook.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Put the stuffed chickens in a large roasting dish, pour about 250ml of water around them and cover with foil. Roast for 35 minutes, then lower the temperature to 190C/375F/gas mark 5, remove the foil and roast for another 20 minutes 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 hard herbs and leave to rest for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining butter in a pan, add the almonds and season. Sauté for three to four minutes, until golden, then tip over the birds. Serve with Greek yogurt on the side.

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