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Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Fragrant Couscous and Cooked on a Sweet Potato Stovie

I made this up the other night when the mother-in-law came round for dinner. I wasn't too sure about it beforehand, but it worked really well. I bought a big organic chicken and treated the couscous like a stuffing. And I'd managed to get hold of some really interesting dried fruit, so I decided to use sour berries, blueberries, strawberries and cherries.

Just a small handful of each, but what an amazing result. The sweet potato stovie is mushy and moreish and rather like a Moroccan bubble and squeak.

Serves 4
2150g/51/2oz couscous
zest and juice of 1 orange
zest and juice of 1 lemon, reserving 1 of the lemon halves
2 good handfuls of mixed dried fruit (bilberries, blueberries, redcurrants, wild strawberries, dates, cherries or apricots)
2 handfuls of mixed nuts (almonds, pistachios, pinenuts or walnuts), crushed
1 large handful of mixed fresh mint and parsley, plus a little extra to serve, roughly chopped
extra virgin olive oil
2 large potatoes, peeled
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 x 1.4kg/31/4lb organic chicken
crème fraîche or sour cream

Preheat your oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5.

Put your couscous, orange and lemon zest and juice, dried fruits, nuts and fresh herbs into a bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and a wineglass of warm water and mix everything together. Coarsely grate your potatoes and sweet potatoes into a bowl and set aside. In a pestle and mortar, pound up all the spices with the salt until you have a fine powder.

Stuff the chicken cavity with all the flavoured couscous. Really push it in, and if there's any left over you can mix it with the grated potatoes. Block the cavity with one of the lemon halves that you have squeezed the juice from - this will keep the couscous inside the chicken while it cooks. Rub the chicken with a little olive oil and half the spice mix, adding the rest of it to the potatoes. Rub a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a roasting tray or casserole-type pan, then add your potato mixture and press down on it. Put the chicken on top of the potato and place in the preheated oven for 11/2 hours, turning the heat down to 170ºC/325ºF/gas 3 after half an hour.

When the chicken is cooked, discard the lemon half from the cavity, remove the tray from the oven and check that the couscous is thoroughly hot. Leave the chicken to rest for about 5 minutes, then put it on a carving board. Remove some of the excess fat from the potatoes with a little kitchen paper - just lay it over the top to let it soak up the fat, then throw it away. To serve, carve the meat and divide it between the serving plates, giving each one a nice spoonful of the potato stovie, then scrape out your fantastically flavoured couscous. Sprinkle the extra mint and parsley over the top, and serve with some crème fraîche or sour cream.



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