Feature

Chicken hashweh: A Lebanese dish fit for a holiday meal

A roast chicken stuffed with rice, toasted nuts, and ground beef or lamb is “a buttery, deeply satisfying dish.”

There’s a blend of seven spices that’s such a staple in my homeland that many Lebanese families take pride in creating their own, said Salma Hage in The Lebanese Kitchen (Phaidon). A blend handed down across generations is “like the family name”—“a source of pride” that also makes the chicken hashweh served in one household just a little different from the one prepared next door.

Chicken hashweh—a roast chicken stuffed with rice, toasted nuts, and ground beef or lamb—is “a buttery, deeply satisfying dish.” Friends of mine who are new to Lebanese cooking love it instantly even though they often find it difficult to recognize one of its prominent flavors. Apparently, they’ve never encountered cinnamon used “in such a savory way.”

Recipe of the week

Chicken hashweh

  • One 3½-lb chicken
  • 9 oz ground lamb
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp seven spices seasoning (recipe below)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 cup instant rice, rinsed in just-boiled   water and soaked in same for 10 minutes
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¾ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped 
  • Olive oil, for brushing

Remove the wings from the chicken and reserve them for a future use. Using your fingers, separate the skin from the breast of the chicken to make a pocket. 

Heat a skillet or frying pan, add lamb, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 8 to 10 minutes, until evenly browned. Reduce heat, add onions and seven spices seasoning, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until onions are softened. Season with salt and pepper. 

Drain the rice, add to the lamb, and stir well, then stir in cumin and cinnamon and cook for another 5 minutes. Pour in about 1¾ cups boiling water to cover and bring back to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, until liquid has been absorbed. Stir in toasted pine nuts and parsley, then remove from heat and let cool. (To speed this up, you can place the pan in a bowl of ice water.) 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Fill chicken’s cavity, neck, and the pocket in between the skin and the breast with rice and lamb mixture, being careful not to tear the skin. Using a trussing needle and thread, sew skin and breast together and close the cavity. Brush chicken with oil, season with salt and pepper, put in a roasting pan, and cover tightly with foil. Cook for 1½ hours, then remove foil and continue cooking for another 30 minutes, until skin is golden brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serves 6.

Lebanese seven spices seasoning

Blend together:

  • 5 tbsp ground allspice
  • 3½ tbsp each pepper and cinnamon
  • 5 tbsp ground cloves
  • 4 tbsp each nutmeg, fenugreek, and ginger

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