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Jaj mahshi (stuffed chicken) 

There is nothing more classic than a roast chicken, and it is something almost everyone loves

There is nothing more classic than a roast chicken, and it is something almost everyone loves. Usually it involves sticking a chicken in the oven and letting it do its thing, but today we are going to be making a fancier version of the humble roast chicken. We are making jaj mahshi, which translates to stuffed chicken, and the stuffing couldn't be better, aromatic rice and meat, all on a bed of delicious potatoes and onions. This is definitely a treat that everyone appreciates when it's made for them.

This is the dish I most associate with my mother-in-law who usually makes it on the first day of Ramadan and on Eid. For the first day of Ramadan, we usually have jaj mahshi and instead of adding the potatoes to the roasting bag like I'm doing today, she makes one of my favourite stews, yakhni batata, a delicious potato stew that is the perfect accompaniment, along with some rice. When she makes it for Eid, it is usually accompanied by moloukhiya and a roasted lamb shoulder over freekeh. Needless to say, my mother-in-law feeds us well!

This does have a few more steps than your standard roasted chicken, but if you break it down you'll find that none of the steps are difficult. First, we make rice, with the addition of meat and onions. This is straightforward, and you can make as much or as little as you like, depending on how many you're feeding. You do want to make sure to spoon out some rice into a separate bowl to stuff your chickens to avoid cross contamination with the raw chicken. My mother-in-law likes to brown her chickens in butter before roasting them in the oven and I find that it gives a great crispy skin and buttery goodness, but you can skip this step and just open the bag at the end and brown your chicken under the broiler. I like to add potatoes and onions to the roasting bag. They come out so flavourful because they cook in the chicken drippings, but this is optional and you can have different sides or leave out the potatoes, but really, who doesn't love carbs on carbs?

Once your chicken is cooked through, serve this in the roasting pan or over the rice in a large serving dish. A sprinkle of toasted nuts and pomegranate seeds add great texture and flavour, and a side of salad or yogurt is always a winner. Treat your guests to this super special stuffed roasted chicken and enjoy all the compliments.

Ingredients

Rice

2 tbsp olive oil

300 g minced meat (beef or lamb)

1 large onion, finely chopped

Salt

Pepper

2 tbsp mixed spice

½ tbsp cinnamon

2 cups Egyptian rice

3 cups water

Chicken 

2 whole medium chickens, cleaned and dried

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp mixed spice

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp garlic paste

Salt

Pepper

Tray

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

2 large onions, cut into crescents

2 tsp garlic paste

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp mixed spice

2 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  1. Begin by making your rice. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the minced meat. brown the minced meat, and if it releases too much liquid, pour it out.
  2. Add the onions and spices and mix well, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon so you don't have big chunks.
  3. Add the rice and continue sauteing, making sure the rice is well-incorporated and coated with the oil and spices. Then, add the water and bring to the boil. Taste the water and make sure it is seasoned properly, slightly more than you'd like as the rice will absorb a lot of the flavour. Lower heat all the way, cover and cook rice. Set aside to cool.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, spices, garlic and lemon juice. Then rub all over the chickens, inside and out. Take out some of the rice and place in a separate bowl to avoid cross contamination. Fill the inside of the chicken with the rice and meat mixture then use toothpicks to close the chicken cavity to stop the rice from falling out.
  5. Heat some butter in a large frying pan and sear all sides of the chicken until it is nice and golden.
  6. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes and onions with the spices, garlic and olive oil. Divide equally between two oven bags and add a chicken to each one. Close the bags and place on a baking tray.
  7. Roast the chickens for 1 hr 40 mins or until the chicken are cooked through. You can open the bag and place the chickens under the broiler for crispier skin.
  8. Serve with the remaining rice and a side of Arabic salad or yogurt and cucumber salad. Enjoy!
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