Mr Yottam Ottolenghi’s Christmas Dinner
Photograph by Mr Benjamin McMahon
Mr Ottolenghi, the chef-patron of the Ottolenghi delis and Nopi restaurant and writer of a weekly column in The Guardian’s Weekend magazine, knows a thing or two about what makes a good dinner. He has published five cookbooks, including Plenty; Plenty More and Ottolenghi: The Cookbook; and also shares his expertise on TV. Here, he offers the first recipe in a three-part series, serving up Christmas dinners that aren’t all about turkey.
“I’ve always preferred a Christmas table full of lots of smaller plates and dishes rather than the tradition of one enormous bird dominating the table, with her minion vegetable sides. So cooking poussins feels much more proportionate and attractive to me. They take a lot less time to cook as well. Flavour-wise, this is perfect for Christmas, especially with the cinnamon, and the oranges. The blood oranges are particularly special – that maroon colour and the hint of raspberry make them so lovely to look at and eat – but the dish works very well with regular navel or another sweet orange. The fruit’s sweet acidity both flavours the meat and cuts through its richness.”
Mr Yottam Ottolenghi’s Christmas poussins
- 4 whole poussins (2kg)
- 200ml blood orange juice (the juice from 3-4 oranges), plus 1tbsp finely grated orange zest
- 2 large onions, cut into 2cm-wide wedges (450g)
- 2½ tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 3tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 large cinnamon sticks, broken in half (20g)
- 2 red chillies, sliced in half lengthways but with their stems held intact and seeds in
- 3tbsp olive oil
- 4 bay leaves
- 20g thyme sprigs
- Salt and black pepper
- 40g muscovado sugar, plus ¼tsp for the sliced oranges
- 2 blood (or 1 large regular) oranges – topped and tailed and sliced into 5mm rounds, skin on (250g)
- 1tbsp ghee or clarified butter
- 3tbsp coriander seeds
Place the poussins in a large bowl with all the remaining ingredients apart from the extra quarter teaspoon of sugar, orange slices, ghee and coriander seeds. Blood oranges look great here, if you can get them. The season is short, though, so use regular oranges if they aren’t around. Add one teaspoon of salt and some black pepper, mix well and leave to marinate for at least two hours or, preferably, overnight, stirring a few times to make sure that everything is well coated. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Line a large high-sided baking tray (around 40 x 30cm and 5cm deep) with baking parchment. Place the poussins over the paper, evenly spaced apart, breast-side up. Pour the marinade around the poussins and then sprinkle them with a third of a teaspoon of salt. Cover the tray tightly with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and increase the temperature to 220°C. Remove and discard the foil, baste the poussins and add the orange slices to the tray, spreading them between the birds.
Return the tray to the oven and cook for 35 minutes, uncovered, until the poussins are cooked through and browned. Lift the poussins and orange slices out from the tray and pour the marinade into a small saucepan. Return the poussins to the tray and cover with foil, to keep warm, until ready to serve. Place the marinade on a medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes, to reduce slightly, until you have about 150ml liquid left in the pan. Remove from the heat and set aside. Spread the orange slices out on a small parchment-lined baking tray, sprinkle with the remaining quarter teaspoon of sugar and return to the oven for 10 minutes, until staring to caramelise, and then set aside.
Place the poussins on a large platter, pour over the thickened marinade and arrange the oranges in-between the birds. Place a small frying pan on a medium-high heat and add the ghee. Once it has melted add the coriander seeds and fry for about one minute until they are golden-brown and aromatic. Spoon the seeds over the poussins and serve at once.