This is truly a wonderful party dish, a simple farm chicken is transformed into a chic meal thanks to taste-bud tingling dried fruits, delicious nuts and of course our homemade ras el hanout.
- 1 preserved lemon
- 1 large whole chicken
- splash of mild olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) Moroccan-style vermicelli (broken into short strands)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 8 pitted dates
- 8 dried, pitted apricots
- 75 g (2¾ oz) almonds
- 20 g (¾ oz/⅓ cup) finely chopped parsley or coriander (cilantro)
- 4 tbsp homemade ras el hanout (see Note)
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: 30 minutes
- Quarter the preserved lemon, scoop out the flesh, then slice the peel into very thin strips. Rub the chicken all over, inside and out, first with half of the preserved lemon strips, then with the ras el hanout (really massage it in); drizzle the chicken with the olive oil and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the chicken into a roasting tin and set aside in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes, and up to 2 hours. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250°C (480°F).
- Roast the chicken in the hot oven for about 15 minutes, until the skin has turned golden brown, then reduce the temperature to 150°C (300°F) and continue to roast the chicken for about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and slide a knife between the thigh and the fillet of the chicken; if the juices run clear, the chicken is cooked. If not, return it to the oven for another 10–20 minutes, then test again.
- While the chicken is roasting, bring plenty of water to the boil in the lower part of a couscous steamer. Mix the vermicelli with the extra-virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt. Sprinkle with about 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) of cold water, mixing it into the vermicelli with your hands. Place the vermicelli in the upper part of the couscous steamer and steam for about 10 minutes.
- Slice the dates and apricots into strips. Chop the almonds coarsely. Place the steamed vermicelli into a large serving bowl and set it aside to cool slightly, then sprinkle over a little more water. Stir the dates, apricots, almonds and the remaining preserved-lemon strips into the vermicelli. If the vermicelli starts to stick together, stir in another tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil. Steam the vermicelli again for 8 minutes.
- Return the vermicelli to the serving dish and stir in the chopped herbs and the meat juices in the roasting tin. Stuff the chicken cavity with some of the vermicelli mixture, then sit the stuffed chicken on top of the remaining vermicelli to serve.
• Ras el hanout (shopkeeper's blend) is a Moroccan spice that can be made up with the selection and quantity of spices that suit your tastes. Our blend contains rose petals, star anise, aniseed, cinnamon, cardamom and fennel seeds. Use an electric coffee grinder or large mortar and pestle to grind them together and dip your finger in to taste and adjust accordingly.
Recipe and images from Under the Mediterranean Sun by Nadia Zerouali and Merijn Tol, Smith Street Books, RRP $55.00.