Cherry-stuffed poussin with braised lettuce

poussin

Love is in the air with Valentine’s Day just a couple of days away. This cherry-stuffed poussin is one of the most romantic meals I can think to serve my husband, but I admit it probably isn’t a first date dinner.

Devouring a whole bird can be a slightly messy affair and getting to the best bits will certainly entail eating with your fingers. Yes, you’ll end up with juice running down your chin and hands. I can’t see a problem with that at all. There’s something rather sexy about getting messy with food.

But if you’re looking to impress your new beau, you might want to think about something a little tidier.
The idea of stuffing the poussin with cherries and nuts came from a beautiful book by Bethany Kehdy, The Jewelled Kitchen; a collection of Lebanese, Moroccan and Persian recipes.

Kehdy stuffs her chicken with albaloo, barberries, pistachios and rice. I’ve adapted her recipe a little to use dried cherries, which are slightly easier to get hold of, cashew nuts, as those are what I happened to have in, and bulgur wheat because, well I can’t seem to get enough of bulgur wheat at the moment. I really like its tender, chewy texture and use it a lot in salads. It’s particularly good with feta cheese and pomegranate seeds.

poussin

There is a hint of pomegranate in this stuffing too, in the form of pomegranate molasses, which bring a heavenly sweet and sour tang to the dish. All in all, this stuffing brings a beautifully fragrant, almost exotic, element to the poussin – just perfect for wooing your lover.

The poussin is so delicious, I’ve served it very simply with braised lettuce. You’ll notice there are no stodgy carbohydrates in this meal, as I really don’t think you want to end up completely over-stuffed and unable to move at the end of Valentine’s Day.

poussin

Cherry-stuffed poussin with braised lettuce

Serves 2

60g dried morello cherries
80g bulgur wheat
½ tbsp sunflower oil
small red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
30g cashew nuts
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
½ tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper
2 x 450g poussins
25g soft butter
olive oil
½ tsp cinnamon
4 spring onions, finely sliced
40g butter
2 little gem lettuces
150ml hot chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 220°C / gas mark 7.

Place the dried cherries in a cup of hot water and leave to soak for 10 minutes and then drain.

Place the bulgur wheat in a bowl and pour over boiling water to at least double the height. Leave for 15 minutes, then drain.

Fry the onion in the oil until soft. Add the garlic and fry gently for another minute. Remove from the heat. Add the cherries, cashew nuts, bulgur wheat, pomegranate molasses and cinnamon and give it all a good stir. Season to taste.

Place the two poussins in a small roasting tin and carefully spoon the stuffing into each of the cavities. Truss up the poussins to keep the stuffing inside.

Rub the skin with the butter and drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle the skin with cinnamon, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for around 40 minutes. Poke a skewer into the thickest part of a leg and if the juices run clear, the poussin is cooked. Leave to rest in the tin for 10 minutes.

In a saucepan, gently cook the spring onions in the butter until soft. Shred the lettuces and stir into the buttery spring onions. Cook for a minute or two until the lettuce is wilted, then pour in the hot stock. Simmer for five minutes or so until the lettuce is tender and the stock has reduced. Taste and season if needed.

Serve the poussins on a bed of braised lettuce, remembering to untie them first. You may wish to pull out a little of the stuffing to reveal the treats inside.

This recipe was first published in my Eat the Season column in the Wells Journal on Thursday 6 February 2014.

Festive mess with mulled wine berries

 

The aroma of mulled wine is so evocative of Christmas. When I was thinking of ideas for a festive pud recently, it occurred to me that mulled wine would be the perfect way to transform an otherwise rather summery dessert into something a little more Christmassy.

Eton mess does really have summer written all over it, doesn’t it? Usually a mixture of strawberries, cream and pieces of meringue, it  has traditionally been served at Eton College’s annual cricket game against Harrow since the 19th century.

In this version I have used a mixture of frozen ‘winter berries’ from the supermarket – in this case blackberries, blackcurrants, cherries and grapes – and cooked them gently in a thick mulled wine syrup before combining with the cream and homemade meringue, flavoured with a little ginger. Take it from me, it tastes and smells divine. I was a little worried it might be a bit ‘grown up’ for my two daughters but they both chomped their way through it gleefully, and the oldest even had seconds.

Festive mess with mulled wine berries

For the meringue:

3 egg whites
pinch of salt
175g caster sugar
1tsp corn flour
1tsp ground ginger
½tsp vanilla extract

NB This recipe makes about double the amount of meringue you’ll need for the dish, but I’m sure you’ll find another way to use up the leftover!

For the mulled red wine berries:

150ml red wine
½ stick cinnamon
5 cloves
zest of 1 orange
100g caster sugar
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
300g frozen mixed winter berries

250g whipping cream
2tbsp icing sugar

First of all, make the meringue. If you don’t have an Aga, preheat the oven to 150ºC / gas mark 2.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until stiff. Gradually whisk in the caster sugar a teaspoonful at a time, and finally whisk in the corn flour, ground ginger and vanilla. Lay a sheet of silicone paper on a baking tray and spread the meringue mixture out onto the sheet to create a large rectangle.

If you have an Aga, put the baking tray on the floor of the roasting oven for three to four minutes, until the meringue is ever so slightly coloured. Then move down to the floor of the simmering oven for about an hour until the meringue is firm on the outside but gooey in the middle.

If you’re using a conventional oven, bake for an hour and then turn the oven off. Open the door halfway and allow the meringue to cool to remove to room temperature before removing.

Now it’s time to move on to the mulled wine syrup.

Pour the wine into a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Add the cinnamon, cloves, orange, sugar and nutmeg and stir well. Allow to simmer for around 10 to 15 minutes until the wine has reduced a little and has more of a sticky syrup consistency. The smell in your kitchen by now will be amazing!

Next add in the frozen fruit, stirring gently, and cook on a low heat until the fruit has defrosted and cooked down a little. But don’t cook so long it turns into a mush; it’s good to have some texture and bite in the fruit. Once the fruit is cooked, leave to one side to cool.

In a large bowl, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and gently stir in the icing sugar.

When the mulled wine berries have cooled, stir these into the whipped cream (reserving a little of the syrup), along with broken pieces of meringue. Serve immediately and finish off with a little drizzle of the mulled wine syrup. Enjoy your delicious bowlful of festive cheer!

Black cherry frozen yoghurt

One day when I’m properly grown up I will buy myself an ice cream maker. Probably when I’m grown up enough to have a kitchen big enough to store an ice cream maker in.

But for now I feed my hunger for home-made ice creams with recipes like this, for semifreddos and frozen yoghurts, that don’t actually require a machine.

This is such an easy and delicious dessert; one you can rustle up with largely store cupboard ingredients. Although do bear in mind you’ll need to take it out the freezer every half an hour and whisk until it’s frozen, so don’t plan to go out anywhere until it’s done. Obviously we generally prefer our fruit fresh, but we always have some of the tinned variety (peaches, mandarins and in this case black cherries) lurking at the back of the cupboard for those ‘just in case’ pudding needs.

I like a little fruity texture to my frozen yoghurt so I puree the cherries in two batches. Feel free to puree all in one go if you prefer yours smooth.

Black cherry frozen yoghurt

2 x 400g tins of black cherries (pitted)
500g low fat Greek yoghurt
3tbsp caster sugar
juice and zest of half a lemon

Put two-thirds of the cherries in the food processor, along with the yoghurt, sugar, lemon juice and zest and puree until fairly smooth. Add the remaining cherries and whiz a smidge longer, just long enough to slightly break up the last lot of cherries.

Pour the mixture into a plastic container, cover and place in the freezer. Whisk the mixture well every half an hour until it is just frozen. This will take about two to three hours.

The frozen yoghurt is ready to eat when you can’t whisk it any more, and is best consumed within two to three weeks.

If you like this, you might also like…

Raspberry, lemon and mint semifreddo
Christmas pudding ice cream