Garlicky Georgian poussins

Tsiplenok tabaka

Photograph: Kris Kirkham

This is the most popular Georgian dish outside Georgia. The young chickens were spatch -cocked and traditionally cooked on special tapa skillets, weighed down with a brick. I have recently learned that in Hungary they call it ‘iron chicken’. I can just picture those hefty vintage irons adorning frying pans all over Budapest, sweet garlicky smells penetrating multi-storey blocks of flats. This was the first dish my mother taught me. I was not even remotely interested in cooking then, so I burnt it badly. The trick is to keep the hob on the lowest setting. As for the weight, my mother often used my dad’s old-school circus dumbbell. It was probably not the safest option and I now use my huge granite mortar, but a couple of cans should also do the job! Serves 2

  • 2 poussins
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated
  • Sea salt flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 40g butter
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • ½ tbsp tarragon, chopped
  • ½ tbsp basil, chopped
  • ½ tbsp parsley, chopped
  • ½ tbsp dill, chopped
  1. Spatchcock each poussin by cutting it along the backbone with a knife or scissors. Flatten them with the palm of your hand, then rub with crushed garlic and season generously all over.
  2. Heat the butter and oil in a large heavy skillet or a frying pan. Cook the poussins cut-side down first for 3 minutes over a medium heat. Then flip them and cook skin-side down for 5 minutes.
  3. Lower the heat and place a cartouche (paper lid) over the birds, followed by a smaller frying pan on top. Weigh it all down with something heavy.
  4. Cook for 20-25 minutes over the lowest possible heat. To test that the poussins are cooked, pull away at the legs, they should come away easily and the juices should run clear.
  5. When the birds are done, lift them out and rest on a chopping board for 5 minutes. Add the herbs to the buttery juices and cook for another minute or two. Serve the chickens drizzled with the herby juices or mop the juices up with some good bread.