To spatchcock means to partially debone and flatten a bird before cooking but in common parlance, spatchcocks are small young chickens, also known by the French term ‘poussin’.
In this recipe the baby chickens aren’t spatchcocked, they’re stuffed with a full-flavoured couscous mixture that keeps the flesh moist as well as tasting great. This dish is a meal in itself, with its own spicy, buttery juices and the vegetables roasted with the poultry. As always, I look for free range and organic chicken.
Pour the couscous into a medium bowl and add half the oil and salt. Rub the oil into the couscous. Just barely cover it with boiling water, then seal the bowl tightly with cling film and steam for 5 minutes. Run a fork through the couscous to fluff the grains.
Boil water in a large saucepan. Add the carrots and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.
Trim excess fat from the chickens, dry with paper towel and season the inside and outside by rubbing with salt.
To make the couscous stuffing, place a large frypan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and fry the onion and garlic. Season with a little salt, add half the thyme and cook over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until the onions are caramelised.
Add the raisins, ras el hanout, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and caraway seeds and fry on medium heat for 1 minute. Add half the verjuice and simmer for a minute or two then take off the heat. Grind in lots of pepper and squeeze over the lemon juice, then tip this mix into the couscous. Stir through the lemon zest, preserved lemon and almonds, then taste. It should be really full flavoured as this is a stuffing not a salad.
When the coucous mix is cool, add the butter and fill the cavity of the birds, packing the mix in very firmly.
Preheat oven to 200˚C.
Take a roasting dish that will fit the meat quite snugly and lay the carrots (and eggplants, if using) in the bottom. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with honey and top with the chicken. Sprinkle with extra ras el hanout, pour in the extra verjuice and the water. Cover the dish tightly in foil and bake for 50 minutes.
Remove the foil and continue roasting, basting the chickens every 10 minutes for a further 30 minutes or until golden. Remove and rest for 5 minutes before serving with pan juices, carrots and eggplant.