If you are only catering for a party of two at Christmas time it can be difficult to know what to cook. Unless you want to be eating turkey sandwiches well into February, it’s almost certainly not worth bothering with a big roast dinner. So something like these stuffed chicken thighs with cranberries and feta could be your answer.
This recipe is adapted from a Yotam Ottolenghi one that was published in the Guardian a couple of years ago and, pretty much like anything that’s influenced by Mr Ottolenghi, it’s utterly delicious.
You need skin-on boneless chicken thighs for this dish. If like me you can’t buy chicken thighs already deboned, don’t be put off. All you need is a small, sharp knife and a bit of confidence and deboning those thighs is pretty easy. (There is a good article here on the process which should tell you all you need to know.) Even if it looks like you’ve made a bit of a hash of deboning your chicken, don’t worry. You’ll be surprised by how amenable chicken thighs are to stuffing and how well they keep their shape during cooking.
These stuffed chicken thighs would go well with the standard Christmas trimmings but I like to serve them with ricotta, pine nut and herb rice. It might sound a bit odd but it is one of my absolute favourite side dishes, particularly with anything with a Middle Eastern flavour. As the chicken thighs retain so much moisture when cooking, you need nothing more than the soft chicken, buttery rice and the meaty juices from the pan for a delicious meal.
Stuffed chicken thighs with cranberries and feta (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi)
4 chicken thighs, boned but with the skin left on
40g feta, crumbled
15g cranberries, soaked in 3 tbsp boiling water then drained
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 garlic clove, chopped
zest of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Mix the breadcrumbs, feta, cranberries, spring onions, herbs, garlic, lemon zest and seasoning together. Divide the mixture into four and squish each portion into a ball with your fingers.
Bash the chicken thighs with a meat mallet or rolling pin until flattened and of even thickness. Place the thighs skin side down on a chopping board and place a ball of stuffing in the centre. Wrap either side of the thigh up and over the stuffing and secure with cocktail sticks (I like to use three for each thigh – at the top, middle and bottom.)
Place the thighs in a small oven proof dish, seam side down, and season with a little salt and pepper. Roast for about 25 minutes, or until cooked though. Remove the cocktail sticks and serve with the juices from the pan.
Ricotta, pine nut and herb rice
1 garlic clove, crushed
100g basmati rice
20g pine nuts
1 tbsp parmesan, grated
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped mint
salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a small saucepan and fry the garlic for one minute. Add the rice and stir well to coat in the butter then add the water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to the minimum, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the water has nearly evaporated. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to sit for a further 10 minutes with the lid on.
Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a small frying pan until golden and mix with the crumbled ricotta, parmesan and herbs. Add the cooked rice and gently fork all the ingredients together with a generous seasoning of salt and pepper.