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Ok, ok, I know I know.. It’s basically chicken and chips.

Oh, alright then it’s bloody Nando’s.

But glorified Nando’s and soooo good.

And we ate it like it was Nando’s.  With our hands, fast, can’t-even-pause-for-breath nom-nom-nomming in front of the telly with a blazing fire going. We didn’t even bother with salad. No room for green stuff, just lovely spicy succulent chook with crispy spicy chips and a bit of yoghurty dip to cool the mouth.

Sorry folks, I know this isn’t in-keeping with the January New Year/New You mood but this girl aint interested in carb-cutting. I want January-blues busting food and this hit the spot. Big time. Especially after a week off meat and booze.  Surely all that sacrifice deserves outright indulgence on this scale?!

The harissa was home-made and blow-your-head-off hot so I used it sparingly. If you want to get a more authentic Nando’s experience (save going to Nando’s) with lots of sauce to squash the chips into then I’d experiment with cooking some tinned chopped tomatoes with the spice mix and maybe even adding a bit of yoghurt or something. This will also temper the heat a little.

Served with a cooling garlicky-yoghurty dip, the chips n’ dip were inspired by recipes in Hugh’s new Veg Everyday book though slightly modified to take into account that the chicken had enough spicy oomph.

The below serves two, generously.  We are greedy so had a whole poussin each though, if you were serving with salad, you could get away with half per-person. We were also so greedy (or depressed?)  that the chip recipe served 4 and we, erm, got through the lot between two of us.

That amount of chicken n’ chips can see off a load of January blues.  I strongly suggest you ditch the diet and get stuck into this (but of course the poussin with a green salad wouldn’t be too hard on the hips.)

Keeping it simple: This is pretty quick and easy but it is of course down to the order. If you were organized with all the ingredients you could do the harissa and the merguez spice mix while the spuds are on the boil.  To keep it calm in the kitchen,  I suggest  you do the following.

  1. Prepare the harissa first, brush poussin then set aside (pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.)
  2. Peel, cut the chips and put onto boil
  3. Prepare the merguez spice mix
  4. Pop the chips and the poussin in the oven at the same time with the chips in a roasting tin on top and the poussin in their own dish underneath. Both should take between 35-40mins. The poussin will probably be done first.  If this is the case, remove from the oven, cover with a tea towel and keep in a warm place. A good rest will do it the world of good.
  5. Do the dip while the chips are in the oven.

Harissa Poussin

3-4 red chillies (not the little birds eye ones but the larger ones)

1 teaspoon of caraway seeds

1 teaspoon of coriander seeds

A few cloves of garlic

Sprinkling of sea salt.

1 teaspoon of paprika.

Glug or two of olive oil.

Heat a dry frying pan on the hob.  When hot, pop the caraway and coriander seeds.  Remove when fragrant and starting to pop a little.  A minute should be fine.  Grind in a pestle and mortar and add to a small dish. Then finely chop the chillies and garlic together with some sea salt.  Combine with the spice mix in the dish and add the paprika.  Add olive oil, stirring, until it basically resembles a paste.

Squash the birds and bend them backwards and forwards a bit to flatten them. Pack in a snug roasting dish side by side and brush with Harissa.  As much as you can handle. Set aside and pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius

Spicy Merguez Chips (adapted from Hugh F-W Veg Everyday book)

5 potatoes (or about 1kg.  They shrink OK!)

A few glugs of oil for roasting.  I used vegetable.

Spice mix: Crush the spices and peppercorns to a powder and combine with the rest of the ingredients.

1 teaspoon each of cumin, fennel, coriander and caraway seeds,

10-12 peppercorns,

1 teaspoon sweet-smoked paprika

¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt.


Crème Fraiche or Greek Yoghurt

A little crushed garlic

A pinch of cayenne to sprinkle on afterwards.

Peel the potatoes and cut into good-sized chips (as opposed to wedges or fries). Pop in a pot, cover with cold water, add salt, and bring to the boil on a medium heat.

While you’re waiting for the water to boil, get going with making the spice mix for the chips (instructions below). Once at the boil, boil for one minute then drain well. Bringing it to the bowl from cold water will help get some of the starch from the chips before cooking.

Pour the oil into a large roasting dish and put in the oven for 5 minutes to heat up. Toss the drained potatoes in a large bowl with the spice mix til’ well coated and then add to the heated oil in the roasting tin, turning to coat in the oil.

Put both the poussin and the chips in the oven and roast for about 35-40minutes.

While this is happening you can get on with the dip.

Do check the poussin so it doesn’t overcook and take out earlier if done. Check in the same way you check chicken – i.e. Spike the thigh and if juices run clear, it’s done.