Holiday hens with fig glaze and cornbread stuffing

  • For the fig glaze
  • 220g dried California figs, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 80g honey
  • 2 tbsps lemon juice
  • 750ml warm water
  • 120ml balsamic vinegar
  • 110g unsalted butter, for the glaze
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For the stuffing
  • 2 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 130g loose sweet Italian sausage
  • 2 tbsps plain flour
  • 4 cornbread muffins, torn into pieces, or 1/2 loaf cornbread, cubed
  • 110g rehydrated dried figs, roughly chopped
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 egg, lightly beaten
  • 60ml double cream
  • 120ml chicken stock, homemade or store-bought
  • 4 Cornish game hens, 500g to 750g each
  • 4 tbps unsalted butter, room temperature
1) Preheat oven to 200C/Gas 6.

2) Begin by re-hydrating the figs. In a large mixing bowl add the figs, honey, lemon juice and cover with warm water. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 to 25 minutes until the figs are tender and soft. Strain the figs and reserve the liquid - as this will be the base for the glaze.

3) To make the stuffing, heat a little extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat and gently saute the onions with rosemary. Add the sweet Italian sausage and continue to saute until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. When done, scrape it all into a large mixing bowl, add the cornbread pieces and figs and season well with salt and pepper. Give it a good toss until it's well combined.

4) In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, cream, and stock, and pour that over the cornbread. Stir the stuffing together and set it aside while you work on the hens.

5) Wash and clean the birds. Season the cavities with salt and pepper and fill with stuffing. Dot the top of each bird with butter and season with salt and pepper. Lay out on a roasting tray and pop into the oven for 40 to 45 minutes.

6) While they are roasting, set the fig liquid over medium-high heat and add balsamic and butter. Reduce until syrupy and baste the birds with 10 minutes to go.

7) When done, an instant-read thermometer should registers 71C in the thickest part of the thigh. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

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