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Curried Cornish Hens with Spiced Confetti Couscous

Curried Cornish Hens with Spiced Confetti Couscous

Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 75 minutes
Servings: 8 Serves 8.
Curry powder is a complex mixture of spices. Toasting it in a hot, dry fry pan helps to enhance the individual flavors.


For the curried Cornish hens:

  • 4 tsp. Madras curry powder
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room
  • 1 tsp. grated orange zest
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 Cornish hens, each 1 lb.
  • 8 yellow onion wedges
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 8 peeled fresh ginger slices
  • 8 orange zest strips, each about 2 inches long
  • 8 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
  • 8 bay leaves

For the couscous:

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 orange zest strip, 2 inches long and 1/2 inch
  • 1 peeled fresh ginger slice
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 cups couscous
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion, such as Vidalia
  • 1 cup peeled and diced carrot
  • 1 cup English peas
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted


To make the curried Cornish hens, in a dry small fry pan over low heat, toast the curry powder, shaking the pan, just until it begins to warm and give off its aroma, about 20 seconds. Remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl. Add the butter, grated orange zest, salt and pepper. Using a fork, mash the spices into the butter until well blended. Cover and refrigerate until the butter is hard, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 350°F.

Rinse the hens inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Season inside and outside with salt and pepper. Stick each onion wedge with a whole clove. Place 1 onion wedge, 1 ginger slice, 1 orange zest strip, 1 garlic clove and 1 bay leaf in the cavity of each hen. Cross the drumsticks on each bird and, using kitchen string, tie together. Starting at the neck opening, loosen the breast skin from the meat to make a small pocket. Cut the curried butter into 8 pieces and slip 1 piece under the skin of each hen, positioning it in the center of each breast. Arrange the hens, breast sides up, in a large baking pan.

Roast, basting with the pan juices every 20 minutes, until the hens are golden brown and the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with a knife, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the couscous: In a wide saucepan over high heat, combine the broth, cinnamon stick, orange zest, ginger and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to very low and cook until the broth is infused with the seasonings, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the couscous, cover and let stand for 20 minutes.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and carrot and sauté until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the peas, currants and garlic and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm. When the couscous is ready, toss in the sautéed vegetables and almonds.

Spoon the couscous onto a warmed platter. Remove the strings from the hens and arrange on top. Serve immediately.
Serves 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Holiday Celebrations, by Marie Simmons (Time-Life Books, 1998).