Paula Wolfert’s chicken stuffed with rice, almonds and raisins

An impressive warming Moroccan style dinner.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 x 1.8–2kg Springfield Organic and Free-range Chicken, neck and giblets reserved
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 140g long-grain rice
  • 120g unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp ras el hanout
  • Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •  100g whole blanched almonds
  • 115g sultanas, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes and drained
  • 1 large red onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  •  ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 3 tbsp saffron water (see below)
  • 1 tbsp floral honey , such as orange blossom, acacia or lavender

 

Organic chicken

For the saffron water

Do as many Moroccan cooks do, and prepare a small jar. Dry ½ teaspoon crumbled strands in a warm (not hot) pan. Crush again, then soak in 240ml hot water and store in a small jar in the refrigerator. This will keep for up to a week.

Method

  1. About 3 ½ hours before serving, bring the chicken to room temperature.
  2. Rinse the giblets and neck, wrap in a muslin bag with the cinnamon stick and set aside.
  3. Cook the rice in boiling water for 10 minutes; drain in a sieve, cool down under cold running water and drain again. Transfer to a bowl and add 30g of the butter, the ras el hanout, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Toss to mix.
  4. Toast the almonds in a dry pan, then crush them in a mortar or a food processor until crumbly. Add the almonds and sultanas to the rice.
  5. Melt 30g of the butter in a large, deep, heavy-bottomed flameproof casserole. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, half the saffron water and 1 teaspoon salt, cover the casserole and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the onion turns soft and golden.
  6. Meanwhile, rinse the chicken well under running water. Rub the chicken with coarse sea salt, then remove and discard as much fat as possible.
  7. Try not to tear the skin. Rinse off the salt and pat dry with kitchen paper.
  8. Place the rice mixture in the cavity of the bird and close the opening at neck and rump, sewing securely using a poultry needle and heavy thread. Tuck the wings under the chicken and tie the legs together. Rub the chicken with 30g of the butter and the remaining saffron water.
  9. Place the chicken breast side up over the onion in the casserole and add about 480ml water to half cover the chicken. Tuck in the muslin bag of giblets, neck and cinnamon stick and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over a medium-low heat for 2 hours, basting the chicken every 30 minutes, or until it is very tender and the flesh is almost falling off the bone.
  10. Carefully remove the chicken to a lightly buttered ovenproof serving dish, placing the chicken so it sits attractively in the dish. Cover and keep warm. Discard the muslin bag.
  11. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.
  12. Quickly boil down the cooking liquid to about 240ml. Add the honey and the remaining 30g butter and boil down to a thick sauce.
  13. Carefully cut away the string on the chicken and discard. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and place in the oven to brown for about 10 minutes. Serve.

Adapted from The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert (Bloomsbury, RRP £35). Click here to order it for £28 from the Guardian Bookshop