Poussin (or coquelet) is the French word for a young chicken, in English they are also know as cornish hens. These birds can either be male or female and are less than 28 days old, as opposed to the 42 days of a regular chicken. The weight should be between 400-450 grams or 14-16 ounces, but sometimes they can also be sold weighing up to 750 grams or 26 ounces — though I’ve never seen one that big.
Where I live these birds aren’t as expensive they might be in some other countries, lucky for us. We don’t eat them often but they are a nice special treat once in a great while. The chicken is so small that they are the perfect serving for one person. Since they are so young there is hardly any fat, but that doesn’t mean that the meat is dry — it’s actually quite tender. I like to roast poussin with plenty of spices, this time it was exotic North African flavours that completed the dish.
In North African cuisine olives and preserved lemons are frequently used. They both add wonderful flavour to so many dishes. Preserved lemons can be purchased in the stores that carry North African or Middle Eastern food products. Additionally they can be bought online or even prepared at home. For this recipe I used a beautifully aromatic mix of spices labeled as couscous spice. The shop attendant told me that it was also one he liked to use for tagines. The spices in the mix are turmeric, ginger, cumin and other’s I can’t quite decipher.
Okay, let’s get cooking!
- 2 coquelets or poussin, each weighing 450 gm or just under 16 oz.
- 1 small preserved lemon, cut into 4 pieces and rinsed
- 1 small preserved lemon, cut into 4 pieces, rinsed and pith removed, and cut into thin slivers
- 13 pitted green olives, cut into ¼ths
- 1 small onion, cut in half
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 handful chopped cilantro
- 1 tbsp couscous spice mix (link to amazon)
- sea salt to taste
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 100 ml or 3.5 oz water
- Remove any string attached to the poussin, lightly rub with a little sea salt, then place them on a baking dish. Cut one preserved lemon into four pieces, rinse and stuff one quarter into each chicken, the rest place into baking dish. Cut one half of the onion into small pieces and set it aside -- the remaining half should be cut into two pieces and each piece stuffed into one poussin. Separate the handful of cilantro into two parts, one half gets set aside and the remaining divided and stuffed into each chicken.
- In a small bowl combine the lemon slivers, green olives, chopped onion, minced garlic, the remaining chopped cilantro, couscous spice mix, oil and water. Pour the mixture over the poussin, making sure that it is entirely coated. Allow to sit for 30 minutes before roasting.
- After 30 minutes, heat the oven to 200C or 390F. If you put the poussin in the refrigerator place on counter while the oven heats up. Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check on it a few times and bast with the pan juices. Do not allow the pan to dry out completely, leave some of the juices to serve over the poussin. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.
- If you can't find preserved lemons, fresh may be used -- but do not remove the pith.
- If you don't like cilantro/coriander then it can be replaced with flat leaf parsley.
On the side I served green beens lightly sauteed with olive oil. You could of course serve with a different green vegetable and a scoop of couscous cooked in vegetable broth. Whatever you decide to serve on the side doesn’t much matter as the scrumptious flavours of the roasted poussin will be the star of the meal.
I love dinners like this, super fast and easy to prepare but packed full of yummy flavours and scents.
Please give our Facebook page a like, thanks!
Fantastic! I love those gorgeous flavors.
We love cornish hens..these are so photogenic!
Victoria of Flavors of the Sun says
I love working with preserved lemons. Just love them. Nice way to use them in this luscious-looking dish.
Nami | Just One Cookbook says
I’m new to North African dishes and so happy you introduced this dish. The preserved lemons and olives – hmmm the seasonings are quite simple but each one has nice flavors. I’d love to taste this!
It’s been ages since I’ve had cornish hen and I would love to try it this way.
You know, I can actually taste this and my mouth is jumping with joy! A long time ago, I baked a chicken with preserved lemons using a recipe from a Moroccan cookbook and it was so tasty, but I do believe that your recipe would be much better and I love that you use Cornish hens! Cornish hens are hard to find here and when I can find them, I have to pay and arm and leg, but they are worth it. Absolutely wonderful recipe Nancy!
Joanne T Ferguson says
G’day Nancy, I love Cornish game hens, true!
Your recipe and especially your photo (as always) is mouth watering and very inspiring too!
Just loved the photography Nancy!!! The last shot is mind-blowing :)
What a beautiful meal. I love the idea of preserved lemons and olives… makes my mouth water. :)
Laura (Tutti Dolci) says
I’ve never tried cornish hen but these flavors sound wonderful!
Suzanne Perazzini says
They look truly delicious. I don’t know if we can get those here but I do love chicken for it’s versatility.
Nancy, those are some great looking cornish hens with huge flavors. The pictures are stunning.
Frank @Memorie di Angelina says
I really must learn more about North African cookery. Every time I see a recipe from that region, I start getting hungry!
Cornish hens are such a great alternative to turkey on Thanksgiving. It’s so fun for each person to get their own bird! I love the combination of flavors and ingredients in your recipe! Thanks for another great post!
Absolutely delicious! I left out the olives and added some sweet potatoes to roast alongside the hens. A Moroccan friend gave me preserved lemons so I used the last ones on this dish -this was so delicious I made a batch of preserved lemons myself just so I could make this dish again!
Spicie Foodie says
Thank you Robert! I love your addition of sweet potatoes — yum! That’s great that you made your own preserved lemons, I do too and they are indispensable in my kitchen now. Enjoy :)