Mummified Cockerel

June 21, 2012

If you’re not intrigued by the title ‘mummified cockerel’ then we’re not going to get along, basically. First up, did you even realise cockerels were for eating? Me neither. I thought they were just for strutting about and waking people up with what is, frankly, one of the funniest animal noises ever. When I used to spend a lot of time out in the sticks, the noise of a cockerel never failed to make me giggle, even at 5am; they just sound so ridiculous and desperate.

I spent 15 minutes laughing at videos of cockerels crowing on youtube while writing this post, and that’s before I’d even started referring to the cockerel I cooked as ‘the cock’. So many jokes… ‘I cooked a cock today’. ‘I’m just mummifying a cock’. ‘Anyone for some hot cock?’ (sorry mum).


So the Ginger Pig have started doing er, chickens. They’ve started selling these hulking beasts that are a cross between a Cornish game cockerel and a Sussex or Dorking hen. They’re 100 days old (as opposed to 65 for the average commercially grown free range British chicken), they’re dry plucked and then hung for a week to bring out the flavour. That’s a special bird. A special cock. You’re not going to find cock of that quality elsewhere (snigger). They’re massive too, with obscenely plump legs. I’ve always been a thigh woman…

I was sent a cock in the post (giggle), to play around with (smirk), along with some advice to cook it ‘low and slow’. This would ideally happen with some liquid; in a casserole or pot roast for example. Problem is, I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do something silly like smearing the cock with a kick ass spice paste, wrapping it in flatbreads and cooking it for four hours. So I did. And it worked. Ha! I do this all the time with regular chickens by the way, it’s a Middle Eastern recipe I found in one of my favourite cook books – A Tale of Twelve Kitchens by Peckham based artist Jake Tilson.

So you sacrifice the crisp skin with this recipe, let’s face up to that right now, but what you get instead is meat of super succulence and a load of bread that has spent 4 hours soaking up chicken fat, juice and spice and let me tell you, it’s off the hook. I witnessed an actual fight over the last piece of that bread between two people that have been friends for quite some years. Be warned.

I made the spice paste by slinging the following into a blender: two onions, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 tablespoons za’atar (a mixture of thyme, sumac, sesame seeds and salt), hot chilli flakes and a splash of oil. I then slapped it all over that cock. Intense. After the slapping part it’s the wrapping part, which is pretty much a case of doing your best to get it all enclosed. I always use a packet of khobez from Persepolis in Peckham (3 or 4 to a pack), which split apart nicely and are the perfect thickness. It’s widely available in London but if you can’t get it I suggest you just do your best with whatever you can find. Don’t use anything too thin like lavash however, as it will crisp up too much and burn.

So what of the cooked cock? Well, I was worried about it to be honest; the drawback of this cooking method is that it’s impossible to check on the progress of it once wrapped. I cook a regular chicken this way for 3 hours at 175 degrees. This seems like an age of course but the bird stays very juicy due to the wrapping. I’ve no idea why it’s cooked for so long but that’s what Jake told me to do so I don’t argue. As I’d been warned the cock would take even longer to cook, I gave it 4 hours to be on the safe side which was probably totally unnecessary (although it did no harm). As a friend advised me at the time of cooking, ‘I’d say 4 hours at 175 degrees would cook fucking anything to be honest.’ Well, quite.

This dish is all about the big reveal. Wang it in the middle of the table and crack the crust to release the fragrant spicy meat puff. Ooooh! Aaaaaaah! Once the steam dissipates, the cock is revealed; the drama of de-mummification. At first I was a little taken aback by the funk of the bird; it smelled a little more high than the average chook. In the mouth though, that translated to chicken flavour to the power of 100 days + hanging for 1 week. It’s aged for a reason…

I served my bird on Persian style rice; basmati steamed with cardamom and streaked with steeped saffron. The shredded meat was dabbed with bits of the spice paste and then, then, scattered with what is possibly the best garnish ever: chopped dates fried in butter. They’re really high in calories, what with all that natural sugar and the liberal addition of saturated fat, which is why they taste incredible. If you’re not into the savoury/fruit thing which I know weirds people out sometimes, try them as a topping for ice cream. I wouldn’t want anyone to miss out.

Okay so it’s not the prettiest of dishes but it tastes incredible, it’s fun and it’s always possible to panic garnish with out of season pomegranate seeds, to give it some colour and make it look better in a photo…a little tip for you there. Damn, I could charge for this shit.

The cockerels are available to buy from Ginger Pig now. They cost £8.50/kg, which isn’t cheap by any stretch, but is only a couple of quid more than a standard free range bird and they’re pretty unique. A 3kg bird will feed about 6 people, or greedy me for 3 days.

See here for Ginger Pig branch locations

Mummified Cockerel

1 x 2.75 kg (or similar sized) cockerel
2 average sized onions
3 cloves garlic
Hot chilli flakes (about a generous tablespoon I suppose)
3 tablespoons za’atar
A splash of oil
3-4 khobez flat breads (or similar), for wrapping

Preheat the oven to 175c.

Whack the onions, garlic, chilli flakes, za’atar, oil and some salt in a blender. Blend it. Smear it all over the cockerel, inside and out, but mostly out. Split one of the flatbreads so that it is still joined on side; you basically want to tuck the chicken into a bready pocket. Do that. Then keep doing it until you’ve mummified the cock. Just do your best to make sure it’s all wrapped up.

Wrap it loosely in foil and put it in the oven. Cook for 4 hours. Every 45 minutes or so take it out and brush the top of the flatbread liberally with water; this should stop it from burning. You won’t be eating the top bit anyway but burnt stuff doesn’t taste good so don’t skip this bit.

After 4 hours it should be ready; who knows, it might even be ready after 3. Anyway, crack the flatbread crust and get stuck in.

Rice Iranian Stylee (these are Sally Butcher’s quantities from Veggiestan, which means they cater for Iranian – meaning large – appetites. This is also her method for cooking rice, which never fails)

600g rice
800ml water
Generous knob of butter
Pinch saffron strands steeped in a little boiling water
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch ground cinnamon
A few dates, chopped
More butter for frying the dates

Wash the rice well. Put the water and butter in a pan with some salt and bring it to the boil. Add the rice and let it come back to the boil, then turn the heat down really low. Tie a clean tea towel around the lid of the pan, then put it on and let it simmer very gently for 20 minutes. After this time, lift the lid, stir in the cardamom and cinnamon, put the lid back on and steam for another 10 minutes.

Melt some butter in a pan and fry the dates in it for a few minutes.

Streak the saffron through the rice and serve with the chicken and dates on top.

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  • Avatar
    Reply miss south June 21, 2012 at 10:03 am

    I hate dates. Until you mentioned frying them in butter and now I’m so desperate to get my hands on some I’d use that silly wee fork inside a pack of Eat Me like a trident to get my own way.

    I’m sure you got yours at Persepolis, but I’m sniggering at serving Eat Me alongside this perfect cock…

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      Reply Helen June 21, 2012 at 10:48 am

      Let’s face it, anything fried n butter is good. Well, not anything. Not like, a turd or something but you know.

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    Reply Tara June 21, 2012 at 10:52 am

    I really shouldn’t be reading this in public – I’m getting funny looks when I giggle! The massive cock looks awesome 😉

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 21, 2012 at 10:53 am

      can’t believe I didn’t use the phrase ‘massive cock’ – serious oversight

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    Reply Chris June 21, 2012 at 11:42 am

    “Once the steam dissipates, the cock is revealed”

    I know a spa in Shoreditch like that.

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    Reply Lizzie June 21, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Those dates sound lovely; I love Iranian style rice, so will definitely be trying that.


    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 21, 2012 at 11:58 am

      Me love Iranian styleeee rice too. I’m even coming round to saffron…

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    Reply Natasha Card June 21, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    On the basis that I live in the sticks …(deepst darkest Suffolk) we have no shortage of Cocks, both large and small, but no flatbreads ……they just dont grow in this climate!!
    Desperate to try this recipe, any suggestions from Normal supermarkets? Could I use wraps for instance?

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      Reply Helen June 21, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      Do you have a big supermarket near you? They often sell very similar flatbreads. Wraps, I dunno. They COULD work but you’d have to do extra layers to make sure. Check out the flatbread selection otherwise give it a go. Only one way to find out! Would suggest ubrushing with water more often. Try to get some with some wholmeal content if you can otherwise they might just go weird and slimy.

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    Reply Natasha Card June 21, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    I will go and have a look and report back with my success/burnt squidgy mess.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      Ha ha! Foil and water are your friends Natasha.

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    Reply Natasha Card June 21, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Thanks you btw …Your blog always makes me giggle lots.

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    Reply Candice June 21, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    That sounds amazing! Definitely going to be on the menu at the next dinner party – we always end telling loads of cock jokes anyway, so now we’ll actually have a reason!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 21, 2012 at 2:18 pm

      ha ha! Great comment. Now you can take your cock joking to the next level…

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    Reply Su-Lin June 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Oh gosh…I have that book but still haven’t cooked anything from it. Shame. Might try this with a regular chicken first!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      It’s one of the best cook books ever in my opinion, totally different to any other…

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    Reply aoife @ the gannet June 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Oh wow! This reminds me of the morton thompson turkey (which although I want to eat, will never bothered enough make). Great alternative to the good, but predictable ‘lemon, garlic and thyme up bum’.

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      Reply Helen June 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm

      I remember this from Steingarten! See now I would bother to make that…in fact I may well do it.

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    Reply Tori June 21, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    I literally snorted reading this on the bus. Dangerously hilarious.

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      Reply Helen June 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      Ha! Very pleased to have caused some public snorting.

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    Reply Laura@howtocookgoodfood June 21, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    What a brilliant dish made all the better by your great writing! Thanks I love it and want to eat it often x

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    Reply Donald Edwards June 21, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    COCK – admit it you only agreed to cook this shit because of how much you love cock.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 22, 2012 at 8:54 am

      Argh! Okay I admit it!!

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    Reply aoife @ the gannet June 22, 2012 at 8:53 am


    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 22, 2012 at 8:54 am

      Ha ha! Awesome…OKAY!

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    Reply Elly June 22, 2012 at 10:36 am

    WOW. This looks like my ideal recipe. I am totally into the whole sweet/savoury thing, so that date garnish sounds amazing. (I’m sure there’s a cock/date joke in there somewhere). Also the whole wrapping chicken in flatbread thing? Total genius. Had never thought of it and am so going to try it asap.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 22, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Wicked. Let me know what you think if you try it.

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    Reply Shu Han June 22, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Have been enjoying the horror stories of cockerels on lizzie’s and other food blogs.I love the way you’ve done your cockerel. Wrapping them in flatbread and baking to seal in all those lovely juices, gosh I’m so hungry already! and I love that calorie-laden butter-fried dates. Totally am going to do that and sprinkle it over my *healthy* breakfast porridge now.

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    Reply Gene June 23, 2012 at 3:59 am

    I got confused by the title of this post, ‘Mummified Cock’ and thought for a second that you were here in Seattle commenting on the King Tut exhibit that’s currently running in town. But now I see it’s about a big chicken. I’ll be sure to follow your advice and go low and slow with my cock from now on!

  • Avatar
    Reply Gill Watson June 24, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Now in a terrified chef panic because I have never cooked a bird wrapped in khobez. Bloody Jake Tilson, he’s supposed to be an artist not a chef, how dare he know how to cook? Has he never heard that artists are supposed to be starving?

    A bit of Arab always sneaks into my cooking and I cannot do a chicken without za’atar (mine from a women’s collective in Palestine via a fabulous deli in Todmorden).

    Have you ever done the Egyptian pizza in my blog (gillwatsonlifebites)? It’s in the post, ‘Edgware Rd edibles and the time we mistook someone’s garden for a restaurant.’

    BTW that Ginger Pig chicken was worth the price just for its wrapping paper. Super posh.

  • Avatar
    Reply Will June 24, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Just made this with a 2.5 kg chicken and it was really excellent, thanks very much for the recipe.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 24, 2012 at 9:11 pm

      Wicked, really pleased you liked it!

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    Reply The Grubworm June 25, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    Having a date with your cock..? Ahem, well. Fruit and meat are a killer combination, and serving buttery dates with a cock cooked low, slow and sealed with a bread condom…uh…I mean wrapper (this post has really brought out the sniggering teen in me), well. It’s decadent, innit? I’d have been fighting over the last shard of bread as well. *Bookmarked*

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      Reply Helen June 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm

      I’m really pleased you like the look of a date with my cock (snigger)

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    Reply Ashley Bee June 25, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Hehe! This is too fun. Have I mentioned yet that I absolutely love your writing? It’s fan-freaking-tastic. I don’t even know if we have cockerels on this side of the pond… or maybe we do and it’s called something else?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 25, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      Hi Ashley, thanks, really please you enjoy my silly rambling.

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    Reply Kein Cockerell (real name) June 26, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    it sounds delicious,but enough with the cock jokes already I’ve heard them all xx

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm

      Ha ha! Oh I bet you have…got any more good ones? (sorry)

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    Reply Jo Bruce June 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Hi Helen

    Tried this last night (couldn’t get my hands on a cock unfortunately…) and thought it was amazing! The meat stays incredibly moist. In fact, it reminded me of the time we cooked a Heston ‘perfect’ chicken recipe, where you cook it in a really low over for maaaaaany hours until it just hits the appropriate ‘cooked chicken’ temperature. However, this is much more fun and much less faff, for similarly super juicy and tender results. Tastier too, and you get the added bonus of crunchy/gooey bread and loads of chicken juice. Really loved it.

    For those struggling to find suitable flatbreads, I ended up buying a really obscure product called ‘Paninette’ made by a company called Dina- found them with the wraps in the bakery section of Asda. They have a French flag on the packet, but are essentially round khobez style flatbreads, that you can split down the middle. Seemed to work anyway!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 28, 2012 at 2:05 pm

      Fantastic! Really chuffed you enjoyed it and nice on the bread improv! Thanks for commenting to let me know, it makes my day.

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    Reply Catfordandy June 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Oh that feeling when your hand gets the first date round the cock. Terrible terribly sorry. I’m not usually like this 🙂

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen June 28, 2012 at 2:06 pm

      Cock jokes are very welcome here Andy, no apologies needed.

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    Reply MattB June 29, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    This looks amazing. I haven’t had any cock for ages…

    Seriously, though, quick question. Do you reckon you could get away with roasting one of these beasts normally? Y’know, if you wanted the salty, crispy skin? Or would it be too tough?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen July 2, 2012 at 7:56 am

      I think you CAN roast them, but it’s not ideal. I think the skin is a little tougher than a regular chook but not too much so. I’d ask in the shop if I were you…

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    Reply Claire July 4, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    We had one of these cockerels on Sunday. Amazing. Strong flavour like what i remember chickens used to taste like. We ate ours (smeared in boursin and tarragon, thought my hubby got recipe from you but can’t find it) in the garden, in the sunshine, talking very loudly about how you can’t beat good cock.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen July 4, 2012 at 12:20 pm

      Nope definitely not my recipe! That’s a right curve ball that cream cheese!

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    Reply Alvaro July 31, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Haha I think this is too much!!!

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    Reply schef August 11, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    you appear to have stolen jamie’s idea. i’ve no idea who he stole it off though.

    can you answer the chilli sauce question btw?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen August 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      It’s from Jake Tilson’s book, as I said…

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen August 13, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      What was the question? I can’t seem to find it.

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