Sally Butcher and her husband Jamshid kindly talked me through this recipe, which is a Middle Eastern classic. Poussin are skinned, cut up and left to sit in a bath of lime juice for 24 hours, before they are grilled or barbecued, basted all the while with saffron butter. 






Skill level

Average: 3.4 (31 votes)


  • 1 chicken (or 2 poussin), each cut into 10 pieces, skin on
  • a large pinch of saffron strands
  • 1 tbsp boiling water
  • 100 g butter
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Large pinch of saffron strands
  • 1 tbsp boiling water
  • 250 ml lime juice (or sour orange or lemon)
  • 1 onion, coarsely grated

Cucumber and yogurt sauce

  • 200 ml (generous ¾ cup) yogurt
  • a handful of mint leaves, finely chopped
  • ½ cucumber, peeled, halved lengthways, deseeded, grated and drained
  • a pinch of sugar

To serve

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Marinating time: overnight

Put the chicken in a refrigerator-friendly receptacle. Season generously with salt and pepper. Using a pestle and mortar, grind the saffron for the marinade with a pinch of salt and mix with the boiling water. Add to the citrus juice and pour the lot over the chicken or poussins, along with the onion. Refrigerate and marinate overnight.

The next day, either get your barbecue ready or heat your oven to its highest temperature. Grind and soak the saffron in the boiling water, as before, and put it in a saucepan with the butter and garlic. Melt together.

Drain and pat dry the chicken pieces then either arrange over your barbecue or a baking tray. Baste with the butter and cook for 10 minutes. Baste again, cook for a further 10 minutes, then repeat. By this time the chicken should be cooked through and nicely browned and blistered. Reheat any remaining butter.

Put the limes on the barbecue or on a griddle pan for a couple of minutes.

Mix the yogurt with the mint and grated cucumber, and season with salt and a pinch of sugar.

To serve, warm through the flatbreads. Serve the chicken torn from the bone and piled into flatbreads with the yogurt, any leftover basting butter, parsley, pickled onions and squeezes of the charred limes.


• Persians normally use a concentrated bottled juice for this which is seriously sherbety and a bit of an acquired taste. Use this or a regular bottled sort – or if you can find a use for zest (there are plenty of ideas dotted around this book!) use around 12–15 large limes.


Recipe from Citrus by Catherine Phipps, photography by Mowie Kay (Quadrille, hb, $39.99). Read Catherine's guide to savoury citrus preserves here