Paul Flynn: Spice bag roast chicken – it’s a bit bonkers but a lot of fun

Warming, spicy Middle Eastern influenced dishes to cure a case of Instagram envy

Roast lamb, prune, pepper and saffron couscous

Our friend Eunice Power went to Morocco on her holidays recently. There were a lot of tantalising Instagram photographs to enjoy afterwards. I’ve never been there, but have always loved the food from the region. The closest I’ve been is Tunisia, which is like saying Wexford is fairly close to St Petersburg.

At one stage, my food in the Tannery was brimming with Middle Eastern influence. I think the recession made me more conservative. I was afraid to lose one precious customer to any flights of fancy. I was braver back then, I think, somewhat regretfully.

Food has always soothed us, both the cooking and the eating of it. So, crippled with Insta-envy, I craved my own little bit of Morocco while wading through the biting wind and frigid rain to buy some couscous and a half leg of lamb for our dinner.

It’s wasn’t all plain sailing though as the two teenagers aren’t all that fond of couscous, or lamb. This touches on a point. There’s many a keen cook’s enthusiasm dimmed due to their unadventurous offspring, and the drudgery of cooking two dinners is unappealing. They are usually banished into the land of spaghetti and meatballs until they hopefully come round. However, on this occasion I insisted. I wanted my couscous.


I found prunes in the press. I love them but I know that Irish people associate them with exploding bottoms. I had a dinky matchbox of saffron that I bought in a health food shop for around €6 and I bought a trilogy of herbs and some pepper. The lamb went on the barbecue, but I won’t presume you have one in use now, though I use mine throughout the year.

Continuing with the spice theme, I’m sharing this slightly eccentric chicken recipe. This dish is a bit bonkers but a lot of fun. A bit like me. You can buy spice bag spice blends handily enough these days. Chef Kwanghi Chan makes one in his Chan Chan sauces range.

Lastly this week, something to go with both the lamb and the chicken, and lots of other things too. It’s a cucumber, orange and black mustard seed raita. Perhaps unnecessarily pimped, but it’s good to break out once in a while.


Serves four

Half leg of lamb – approximately 1kg
1 tbsp duck fat
Salt and pepper
75mls olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
2 red peppers, deseeded and cut into 2cm pieces
½tsp smoked paprika
Saffron, 1g of threads or a third of a tsp of powdered
10 pre-soaked prunes, cut into three
Zest and juice of one orange.
250g instant couscous
400ml water
A handful of fresh mint, coriander and basil, all picked and roughly chopped


1 Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius, or equivalent.

2 Place the lamb in a roasting tray, rub the duck fat all over it then season generously. Put it in the hot oven for 15 minutes,until it starts to brown, then turn the oven down to 180 degrees and cook for a further 30 minutes.

3 When the lamb is cooked remove it from the oven, cover with foil and allow to rest.

4 Put the olive oil into a frying pan then add the peppers, smoked paprika and garlic. Cook over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the peppers become somewhat sticky, season and remove from the heat.

5 Add 50mls of boiling water to the saffron and allow it to sit for a little while.

6 Wait for a couple of minutes before measuring out 350mls of remaining boiling water and adding it into the couscous (boiling water makes it clumpy).

7 Add the saffron and the orange juice and zest to the couscous. Season and cover with cling film. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before loosening it with a fork.

8 Add the pepper mixture, prunes and herbs to the couscous and fold through gently.

9 This is perfectly lovely served at room temperature, all you need do is carve the lamb and sit it on top. If you didn't fancy making the raita, serve it with some shop-bought hummus.

Roast spice bag chicken, butternut squash, baby spinach and cashew nuts


Serves 4

1 chicken, around 1. 7kg, free range if possible
1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic, halved
100mls olive oil
1 heaped tsp spicebag spice
1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 6cm chunks
200g (1 bag) baby spinach, washed
70g cashew nuts
Salt and pepper
200mls natural yoghurt
2 spring onions, finely chopped


1 Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, or equivalent.

2 Put the chicken onto a large roasting tin and stuff it with half a lemon and the garlic.

3 Drizzle the olive oil over the chicken, followed by an even sprinkling of the spicebag mix. Massage it into the chicken making sure you get it into all the nooks and crannies.

4 Roast the chicken in the oven for 30 minutes, then add the butternut squash chunks to the tray, making sure you turn them in all the lovely juices. Cook for another 50 minutes, turning the vegetables once or twice more.

5 Meanwhile, mix the chopped spring onions with the yoghurt and set aside.

6 When the chicken is cooked, drain all the juices on to the roasting tray and transfer the chicken on to a board and cover it with foil for 15 minutes.

7 Add the spinach and the cashew nuts to the roasting juices, put the tray over a low heat and wilt the spinach for two minutes.

8 Season this with salt and pepper and add the juice of the other half of the lemon.

9 Carve the chicken, divide everything on to warm plates and serve with the spring onion yoghurt.

Cucumber, orange and black mustard seed raita


Serves four

250mls natural yoghurt
Half a cucumber, peeled and finely diced
Zest of half an orange
½tsp black mustard seeds, optional


1 Toast the mustard seeds in a dry pan for two minutes over a medium heat until they start to pop.

2 Allow the mustard seeds to cool, then fold the cucumber, mustard seeds and orange into the yoghurt and set aside until needed.