Uh oh our joke summer is having the last laugh, but as I tap away I smugly know that spoilingly we are escaping the rain dappled windows to the sun-baked earth of Southern Italy in a few weeks time. My heart literally leaps at the prospect of blue sky and heat. Pathetically I feel that the rain has washed away some of my inspiration, so with the prospect of friends coming for dinner I resorted to an old tried and tested favorite for a starter, followed by a new creation that has already been test driven on the home team. The starter is food marriage, beetroot, goats cheese and toasted walnuts, the beets are from the garden and thankfully a more respectable size this week. Once again it was pretty bright with golden, red and striped, but who cares we certainly need color in our lives.
Poussin marinated in a honey, Dijon and yoghurt marinade with a jewelled couscous salad and tahini mint tzatziki for a main course, played all the right summer tunes swiftly followed by my 2 new cheese discoveries this year, The Little Black Bomber and Bath Soft. If you can’t get hold of poussin, chicken supremes would work equally well and possibly even quail. We take the breasts off the poussin and serve 2 breasts and a leg, which removes all that nasty surgical action at the table. The jewelled couscous is a flight of fancy for me, studded with freshly podded peas, sliced spring onions, pistachios, pomegranate, shelled broad beans, lemon zest and plenty of salt and pepper, it is practically a meal in itself! That teamed with the poussin is then brought together with the mint, tahini yoghurt combo works foodie magic.
As for cheese, I am a complete cheese lover. I will happily forfeit pudding any day for cheese. I am not country specific, I adore French, Italian and British cheese, though I am rather fickle about mixing and matching. If I am going to serve cheese it will either all be French, or all Italian, do you get my drift? The Little Black Bomber is a small mature cheddar made in Wales neatly sealed in black wax. Made by the The Snowdonia Cheese Company along with a number of other cheeses, it is their best-selling cheese and as soon as you taste it you know why. Properly intense, creamy, rich, lasting flavour – like a vintage wine it is a gutsy cheddar and is extremely good. Bath Soft is completely different, presented in a square, wrapped in parchment paper with a charming label that almost looks handwritten, as soon as you cut through the rind the cheese oozes out like a super ripe brie. It is a proper contender for a soft cheese challenge against the French as it really is quite spectacular. Unlike the ‘Bomber’, Bath Soft has been in existence since 1801, Admiral Lord Nelson’s sweetheart was even recorded saying how ‘gratified’ she was by its’ taste!
So there you have it. An easy, summery, light dinner for friends mid-week. It probably took 1 hour 30 minutes to prepare, was dead pretty, properly ‘showy offy’ as to the home-grown produce (apologies for being so smug), tasty, light and seasonal. I did also serve a pudding a ‘Rhubarb and Sour Cream Tart’ but that was completely surplus to requirements, as actually all anyone wanted were the Jelly Bellies that one of our darling guests, (curiously he is nicknamed Sweetie) came laden with!
Marinated Poussin with Jewelled Couscous Salad and Yogurt Dressing
4 Poussin spatch cocked
4 table spoons of natural yoghurt
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh coriander
Pinch of Maldon sea salt and a good twist of black pepper
200gms of couscous (cook as instructed on the back of packet)
1 pomegranate deseeded
2 handfuls of green pistachio nuts cut finely
4 handfuls of freshly podded peas
2 handfuls of double podded broad beans
1 small bunch of spring onions cut very finely
Zest of 1 lemon
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper
100gms (or about that) of fresh goats cheese crumbled
4 tablespoons of natural yoghurt
2 handfulls of chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon of tahini sauce
1 teaspoon of honey
A squeeze of lemon juice
1. Make the couscous first, mix all the ingredients together, add some olive oil, more pepper and salt in necessary and possibly a little lemon juice. Leave at room temperature for up to an hour – or pop in the fridge.
2.Mix the marinade ingredients together and spread over the poussin, inside and out.
3. Now heat the grill to the highest setting and pop under the spread out poussin, skin side down under the grill. It does slightly depend on the strength and intensity of your grill but I gave our poussin about 7-8 minutes on each side. Finish with them being grilled skin side up, so you get a gorgous golden color on the skin. I pulled them out when they were just cooked and then let them sit for about 10 minutes to relax. The beauty of poussin is that they are more delicate than chicken and somewhat sweeter BUT the risk is if they get overcooked they will dry out. They also work very well on the bbq in a more clement summer!
4. To make the yoghurt sauce, add the chopped mint, 1 good teaspoon of tahini paste, 1 teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of lemon juice, mix well together.
5. Carve the breasts out of the poussin and chop the legs off, leaving the carcass for stock, and serve on top of a pile of couscous, serve with the yoghurt sauce. Summer on a plate!
Poussin : is the butchers name for a young chicken, it is less than 28 days old at slaughter, and usually weighs around 400-450gms.
A quick Google search informs me that you can buy poussin in Asda and Tesco, and possibly other supermarkets. I buy mine from a butchers called Jagos who spatchcock them for me. If you happen to be in London town, Jagos is well worth a visit, the butchers are charming, the shop is nestled on a street just off Chelsea Green in a real foodie haven, knocking doors with The Chelsea Fishmonger, Haynes Hanson and Clarke, and Andreas.