User Menu

Simple roast chicken with an exotic, luxurious twist

Lilly Higgins recipe: chicken with figs and saffron-kissed tabbouleh is an ideal dish for this time of year

This is a roast chicken with an exotic and luxurious twist. Fresh figs are now in season and are delicious roasted. This saffron-kissed tabbouleh is peppered with bright pink pomegranate arils and bursts of fresh mint. So many recipes with bulgur involve simmering, boiling and draining the cracked wheat but really you need only soak it in boiling water for five minutes and it turns out perfectly every time. Use a 1:1 ratio of water to bulgur.

Saffron can be quite expensive as the stigmas and styles from the bright purple crocus flowers need to be harvested by hand with care. Always soak the threads in a little hot water, just as you would brew tea, before adding more liquid. This helps to release the aromas and it will ensure that a little pinch of precious saffron goes a long way. You could use ground turmeric as a cheaper alternative to colour the tabbouleh but it won’t have the same sweet flavour. And one of the main reasons I’ve used saffron here is for its honey hay like flavour.

If you don’t have pomegranate molasses you can reduce down some balsamic vinegar till thick and syrupy and use that instead. This is an ideal dish for this time of year and can be served at room temperature or warm. Leftover chicken folded through the tabbouleh is really good the next day and it makes a magical packed lunch.

Roast chicken with figs and tabbouleh

Serves 6

  • 1 free-range chicken
  • 2 lemons
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 6 fresh figs
  • 1 tsp ground dried thyme
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 250g bulgur wheat
  • Large pinch saffron threads
  • 250ml water
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 15g parsley, finely chopped
  • 15g mint, finely chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 100g toasted flaked almonds
  • ½ pomegranate, arils removed

Preheat the oven to 200C. Remove the zest from one lemon and set it aside for the bulgur wheat. Halve the lemons and place them inside the chicken’s cavity. Place the chicken into a roasting tin and season with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil. Place in the oven. An average roast chicken, about 1.5kg will need one hour 20 minutes. So cook your chicken depending on its weight. Turn the tray around halfway through cooking time and baste with its juices so it browns evenly.

Mix the dried thyme, sesame seeds, honey and pomegranate molasses together to make a smooth paste. 10 minutes before the end of the bird’s cooking time remove the chicken from the oven and pour the honey molasses mix over the entire bird, including the legs and wings.

Halve the figs and arrange them around the chicken, basting with the cooking juices that are in the tray. Return the tray to the oven to roast for the final 10 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked transfer it to a carving board and leave to rest for 10 minutes, cover with foil to keep warm. Reserve all of the cooking juices in a jug. Leave to rest so the fat rises to the top and can be easily poured off and discarded.

Mix the pinch of saffron with a splash of hot water and leave for a few minutes. Place the bulgur wheat in a bowl. Pour the saffron water and 250ml boiling water over the bulgur wheat. Add the cinnamon and a generous pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Cover the bowl with cling film. Leave for five minutes then uncover and fluff with a fork. Add the lemon zest, parsley, mint, flaked almonds and pomegranate arils.  Gently mix and serve immediately with the sliced roast chicken and figs. Drizzle the reserved cooking juices from the chicken over the tabbouleh or serve alongside it.