Stuffed Chicken, Baby Courgettes and Vine Leaves

Amoul Oakes flavours this Lebanese chicken dish with spices and coffee, then layers it with the vegetables and a rice and lamb mince stuffing
Stuffed Chicken, Baby Courgettes and Vine Leaves
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 6
  • Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Effort: hard

Ingredients

For the stuffing

  • 800 g Egyptian rice, or pudding rice, rinsed
  • 1 kg minced lamb
  • 3-4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 15 white baby courgettes
  • 1 jar Californian vine leaves, preserved in brine

For the chicken

  • 1x1.5 kg chicken
  • 1/4 lemons
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp finely ground coffee, preferably Lebanese or Turkish
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 100 g pine kernels, roasted with 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 lemon, juice only

Method

1. For the stuffing: wash the rice in a sieve and put it in a bowl. Add the minced lamb to the rice and mix together with your fingers adding the salt, cinnamon, black pepper and vegetable oil. Set aside.

2. To stuff the courgettes, remove the centres from the courgettes, taking care not to break them. You need to be able to stuff them with the rice mixture, so the courgettes have to be quite empty. Spoon in some of the stuffing leaving a 2cm gap at the top as the stuffing will expand as it cooks.

3. To stuff the vine leaves, rinse the vine leaves under cold running water. Place in a bowl and cover with boiling water to remove the excess salt.

4. Remove the vine leaves from water and place in a colander. One by one, lay them apart on a board. Position each leaf with the stem side up. Carefully remove the stem. Place some of the stuffing (reserve some for the chicken) across the leaf, in a line no thicker than 1cm, leaving 1cm from each end. Fold the leaf from both sides over the stuffing and roll it from the top of the leaf to the bottom. You should have a tight compact cigar-shaped roll.

5. Layer the rolled vine leaves in a large heavy-based pan or flameproof casserole dish to completely cover the base.

6. For the chicken: rub the chicken with the lemon and a sprinkling of salt, inside and out. Remove the tailbone of the chicken.

7. Mix all the spices (except the cardamom pods) and coffee together and then rub the chicken inside and out with the spice mixture.

8. Add the roasted pine nuts and butter to the remaining stuffing. Mix well and stuff the chicken. Secure the open area of the chicken with toothpicks or use a needle and thread, to stop the stuffing escaping.

9. Place the chicken, breast down on top of the vine leaves, and scatter the cardamom pods around the chicken. Cover the chicken with the courgettes and continue filling the pot with the remaining stuffed vine leaves so that the chicken is completely covered.

10. Pour in enough water to cover the contents of the pan and add the unsalted butter, salt and lemon juice. Place a plate on the top of everything to keep the vine leaves in place. Bring to the boil.

11. Once boiling, you can taste to see if it needs any more seasoning. Reduce the heat to very low and cook slowly for 3-4 hours. The dish is cooked when the vine leaves on top are tender and almost all the water has evaporated. If there is still some liquid don't worry.

12. To serve: tip into a bowl and serve with tabouleh, mixed salad of romaine lettuce, baby cucumber and tomato dressed with garlic and lemon and goat's yogurt mixed with cucumber and seasoned with garlic and mint.

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