Generally when we think of roast lamb for a special meal, we picture a succulent slow-roast shoulder or leg; always delicious and a real crowd-pleaser too. But if you’re after something a little quicker but with equal pizzazz, then a rack of lamb is the way to go, with guaranteed oohs and aahs when you carve it into cutlets at the table.
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.
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.
Cherry-stuffed poussin with braised lettuce
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
½ tsp cinnamon
4 spring onions, finely sliced
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.