Sunday dinner with a difference: Lebanese stuffed pot-roast chicken

One of our favourite meals is a classic Sunday roast. Ash, being English, was raised on this weekend staple, but it was less frequent in Miranda’s household due to the slightly inappropriate Australian climate. Thinking about it, suitability for a weekly roast is one of the few points that British weather has in its favour. Because seriously, what’s not to like about Sunday dinner? Tender meat, tasty veg, crispy potatoes, the mysterious is-it-savoury-or-is-it-sweet parsnip, plenty of gravy bursting with flavour, a selection of condiments to suit the chosen joint (horseradish… mint sauce… applesauce… cranberry sauce) – and the king of the plate, the Yorkshire pudding. Or puddings.

Much as we love trying out new recipes, Sunday dinner is something we don’t usually mess with, in an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ kind of way. The meat-veg-gravy formula works, so there’s no need to experiment. Ash is so practised at it now that he can pretty much cook a roast dinner on autopilot. So at dinnertime on Sundays, we usually tend to sit down, ignore the enormous pile of dishes that has somehow built up during the cooking process (something else he can produce on autopilot), and relax ourselves before having to face the working week ahead of us. It’s one of our favourite times of the week.

The difference this week is that we did mess with it, by putting a Lebanese spin on roast chicken, as recommended by Allegra McEvedy in our trusty Bought, Borrowed & Stolen. Rather than roasties, we have delightfully ‘poached’ butternut squash and caramelised onions. Rather than boiled veg, we have a fattoush salad (recipe adapted from here). Rather than traditional gravy, we have the intriguing tang of pomegranate molasses. And rather than Paxo (other brands of stuffing are available), we have a blend of beef, bulghur wheat and pine nuts. Yes please.

Stuffed Pot-Roast Chicken with Pine Nuts and Pomegranate Molasses

Ingredients
Extra virgin olive oil
70g bulghur wheat
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
50g pine nuts
1tsp ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 onions, cut into wedges
1 small butternut squash, peeled, the top part sliced in half lengthwise then into 2cm thick semi-circles, and the bulbous bottom cut into 5cm chunks
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs of thyme
300g beef mince
Zest of 1 lemon
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 free-range chicken (weighing about 1.75kg)
500ml-1L hot chicken stock
125ml pomegranate molasses
Salt and pepper

Method
1. Heat 1tbsp of olive oil in a heavy-based pan large enough to hold the chicken and fry the bulghur, garlic, pine nuts and spices together, then pour on enough water to cover the grains. Put a lid on and simmer for 5ish minutes until the bulghur is cooked, then tip into a bowl to cool.
2. Wipe out the pan, put it back on a low-medium heat and pour in some more olive oil. Cook the onions with a lid on for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Turn up the heat and mix the squash into the onions, along with the bay leaves, thyme and seasoning. Put a lid on and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring, until the onions start to caramelise and the squash softens.
4. Meanwhile, in a big bowl, mix the cooked bulghur with the beef mince, lemon zest, parsley and seasoning. Stuff the chicken, closing the open end by folding over the flappy bits and securing with a couple of toothpicks.
5. When the vegetables are on the way to being cooked, tip them into the ex-stuffing mixing bowl. Wipe the pan out again and put it back on to get good and hot with a splash of olive oil, then brown the chicken, breast side down. Once the breasts are appealingly browned, turn it over and fry it for a minute more.
6. Take out the chicken and put half the vegetables back into the pan. Nestle the chicken in the veg, breast-side up, and spoon the rest of the veg around it. Pour in the chicken stock so that it comes 3/4 of the way up the sides of the chicken, then drizzle the pomegranate molasses all over the bird and into the stock.
7. Put a lid on, turn the heat down to low-medium and cook, bubbling gently, for about an hour (we found that it took a good bit longer than this!). When it’s done, leave it to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 4-5.

Chicken pre-cook

Chicken

Fattoush

We’ve had this recipe bookmarked for nearly as long as we’ve had the book so are glad that we’ve finally had an excuse to make it. Having said that, we’re not sure we’d rush to make it again. It was very nice, but the problem with Ash being able to make a regular roast on autopilot is that any variation actually takes some thought, effort and time – and this definitely took time. Also, we have to admit, we missed our crispy, roasted chicken skin and crunchy roast potatoes. Nonetheless, the flavour of the pomegranate molasses was delicious, and we did enjoy the Middle Eastern equivalent of a standard Sunday dinner.

We also enjoyed that other excellent part of a Sunday roast: leftovers on Monday! We combined the leftover chicken, squash and salad with some baba ghanoush on Lebanese bread and turned them into the biggest wraps known to man. Definitely recommended for a tasty, messy, easy Monday night meal!

Leftovers wrap

Massive wrap

See you next time for something Israeli!

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