Spatchcocked Birds

Nigella Lawson's selection of sweet, tangy and spicy spatchcock poultry brings innovation to sizzling barbecue parties
By Nigella Lawson
Spatchcocked Birds
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 8-10
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes plus overnight marinating
  • Effort: medium



  • 1 chicken, spatchcocked
  • 2 poussins, spatchcocked
  • 4 quail, spatchcocked
  • 3 pinches sea salt
  • 1 handfuls parsley, fresh, chopped
  • 2 bunches coriander, fresh, chopped

For the chicken marinade:

  • 1 lemons, juice only
  • 2 tbsp black peppercorns, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar
  • 100 ml olive oil, (not extra-virgin)
  • 2 clove garlic, peeled and bruised

For the poussin marinade:

  • 2 limes, juice only
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 100 ml groundnut oil, or vegetable oil
  • 1 pinches pepper

For the quail marinade:

  • 1 bunches spring onions, finely sliced
  • 100 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 dashes of sesame oil, toasted
  • 2 cm ginger, fresh, unpeeled and chopped roughly
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar, or Mirin
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

Tips and Suggestions

For that point in the evening when people need to hunker down to some serious eating, you do need to provide something a little more substantial than plates for picking from. This is what I roll out during a summer's evening barbecuing. You can stick with just chicken if you want, but I've suggested poussins and quail as well, just because I like anything that produces that welcoming sense of the groaning board - and plus, it gives me the opportunity to suggest more than one marinade.

The marinades themselves are to be regarded as the loosest blueprint. Use the flavourings you like, remembering that you need oil of some sort to prevent the meat from drying out and an acid- vinegars, citrus fruits - to tenderise it. The spatchcocked birds don't need to be cooked on the barbecue; an oven preheated to 220°C or 240°C/gas 7 or 8, will do just fine. And because the birds are spatchcocked - that's to say, cut on one side and opened out, like a book - they need much less cooking time than surgically uninterfered-with poultry, which can be useful if you've got time in advance for the spatchcocking and marinating and not much time on the night for actual cooking.

Any good butcher will spatchcock the birds for you, or you could ask the butchery section at the supermarket to do it, but it's easy enough for you to manage yourself at home. Just get a pair of poultry shears or tough scissors (I use a pair sold by someone on one of those door-to-door yellow duster trails made for cutting through tins and tough stuff) and lay the bird, breast side down, on a surface and cut through all along one side of the backbone. Then cut along the other side and - hey presto - the backbone can be removed and you then turn the bird other way up and press down as you open it out. You have in front of you a spatchcocked bird, ready for its marinade.


1. Sit the birds in their marinade in a dish into which they fit snugly, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge, preferably overnight or for 24 hours, though even a couple of hours would have an effect.

2. When the barbecue is good and hot, lift the birds out of their marinade and cook on the barbie until the flesh has lost all raw pinkness but is still tender within and the skin is crisp and burnished and blistered. It's hard to be precise about times, since barbecues differ even more than ovens do, but on my barbecue - a gas-fired Outdoor Chef, which I love to distraction and, since it has a lid, I use even in the winter rain - the chicken takes about 35 minutes, the poussins 15 and the quail about 7.

3. Along with Malden salt, sprinkle freshly chopped parsley over the chicken, coriander over the poussins and quail, or use whatever other herb seems right for the marinades you've concocted.

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