Middle Eastern roast chicken with saffron couscous

Middle Eastern roast chicken with saffron couscous


3 people made this

Here chicken is roasted with a fig and pistachio couscous stuffing and basted with a spicy lemon marinade to keep the meat deliciously moist. A leafy salad with fresh oranges would make a great side dish.

Zoë Harpham

Serves: 4 

  • 1 large chicken (about 1.5 kg)
  • 1 lemon, zest grated and juiced
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 small red onions, each cut into six wedges
  • 1⅔ cups (300 g) couscous
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
  • 2 cups (500 ml) diluted salt-reduced or homemade chicken or vegetable stock, hot
  • ⅓ cup (75 g) roughly chopped dried figs
  • ⅓ cup (50 g) shelled unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped

Preparation:30min  ›  Cook:1hour25min  ›  Ready in:1hour55min 

  1. Rinse the chicken inside and out under cold running water and dry with paper towel. Put into a large, lightly greased roasting tin.
  2. Mix the lemon zest and juice with the honey, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, cumin and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Brush some of this mixture generously inside the cavity of the bird, then over the outside. Leave to marinate while making the stuffing or for longer, if convenient. Reserve the rest of the marinade.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Put the couscous into a heatproof bowl. Stir the saffron into the stock, then pour over the couscous. Cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes or until all the stock has been absorbed. Stir in the figs and pistachios. Season to taste.
  4. Spoon some of the couscous mixture into the neck end of the chicken. Fold the neck skin over and secure with the wing tips or with a wooden cocktail stick. Put the onion wedges into the cavity of the body (or, if you prefer, arrange them in the tin around the bird after it has been roasting for 40 minutes). Spoon the rest of the spiced lemon juice mixture over the chicken and roast for 1 hour.
  5. Spoon the remaining couscous around the chicken and roast for a further 25 minutes. To test if the bird is cooked, pierce the thickest part of the thigh: the juices should run clear and the internal temperature should be 75ºC.
  6. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter, loosely cover with foil to keep warm and leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Remove the skin before serving, if desired. Serve with the couscous and onions.


1 portion vegetables


• For an Indian-style recipe, replace the couscous with basmati rice, slightly under-cooked.
• Omit the saffron and stock, replace the pistachios with toasted cashews, and use a chopped beef tomato in place of the figs.
• Flavour with ½ teaspoon garam masala, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander and plenty of pepper.


The chicken can be marinated a day in advance and the couscous stuffing prepared ahead of time. Don't stuff the chicken until just before you are ready to cook it.

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Reviews (2)


Great meal! I used skinless chicken legs and thighs and fresh ginger (didn't have ground ginger). I then grilled them over charcoal. For the Couscous, I used yellow raisins and toasted slivered almonds (didn't have figs or pistacios), The results were fabulous! I will definately make this again. - 10 Apr 2010


the couscous coating on the outside adds a crunchy texture to the chicken - 04 May 2009

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