Les petits coquelets

I suppose it could be considered slightly morbid to think of these little poussins as cute. There is something rather sweet about the French name, "coquelet". I have been wanting to cook with them for a while now, but have only ever seen a couple on display at the organic butchers in the Covered Market, and I have usually needed at least four. However, when I enquired yesterday it turns out they have a lot frozen, and I ended up with five little baby chickens in a bag. I intended to cook something meaty for dinner, but it was far too summery for beef or lamb (despite my recent yearning to make a tagine). Poussin seemed just right - summery like chicken, but not as overwhelming as a huge roast chicken.  I always think it is much nicer to present people with a whole animal on a plate: that's why I love cooking pigeon, partridge, whole fish with the heads left on. It looks more impressive and feels much more generous, somehow. Plus there is the fun of picking your own little carcass, if you are a manic carnivore like some of my friends. 
Some friends and I are in the process of planning a trip to the Middle East this summer. In the spirit of this, I decided to do a Middle-Eastern themed poussin dish. I adapted a recipe from Claudia Roden's Arabesque, my Middle Eastern cookery Bible. So, I made some couscous, stirred in some orange blossom water (sounds odd, but gives a wonderfully alluring fragrance to the dish), raisins, pistachios, chopped almonds, cinnamon and olive oil, and stuffed the poussins with some of it. I covered them with a mixture of olive oil, cinnamon, ginger, lemon and honey and put them in the oven at 200C for an hour or so, breast side down at first, turning them up for the last half hour. They came out of the oven beautifully burnished and golden, and the roasting juices were deliciously lemony drizzled over the rest of the couscous, which went on the side with some watercress - I figured the pepperiness of watercress would be a good match for the couscous, which was quite sweet.

Now I think about it, this whole meal was a medley of my food-related whims yesterday. I wanted to make pasta, having not made it for weeks - not since before the Finals panic set in. A little tip: making pasta in hot weather is tricky. Roll it out thinly and it turns sticky and is impossible to stuff, and even more impossible to prise off whatever you lay it on before you put it into the cooking pot. The result was that my ravioli was slightly thicker than usual. I have to say, though, that I think it was my favourite yet. I found three beautiful red peppers at the market yesterday for a pound. They went under the grill until black, and I then peeled off the skin and cut them into little pieces with scissors, holding them over a bowl so as not to lose any of the beautiful sweet and sharp juice. I then crumbled in some goats' cheese and stirred it all together so that the cheese melted into the hot peppers and formed a paste. Some black pepper, and this went into the middle of the ravioli. The garnish was a very rustic home-made pesto: a basil plant in the blender with a trickle of olive oil, some grated parmesan and some pine nuts. 

It looks somewhat anaemic in that photo for some reason, but I was very impressed with the way it tasted, and will definitely be making it again. Just after I had blitzed the pasta dough in the blender it occurred to me that putting some basil leaves in first would have been a nice idea, to turn the pasta green and make it taste even more basilly. Next time, I think.