I finally cooked that special dinner I had been planning for hubby's return to home and hearth. It was a quiet but warm reunion, one befitting a couple as low-key as we are. After dinner, the family retired to the living room with dessert - I am not one of those mothers who forbids eating in front of the television. I don't recommend it for everyone, but it can't be denied that sitting in front of the telly with your feet tucked under and a decadently indulgent dessert on your lap, is one of life's best and simplest pleasures, whether you're alone or in the company of favoured, if not loved ones. Dessert was the Nutella and Orange Tart posted below.

A lot of recipes for roast game hen will tell you to roast the diminutive birds for over an hour and even the instructions on the packaging for the ones I bought adviced roasting them for 1 1/4 hours. Pay no heed whatsoever. These tender and quick cooking birds, if they are of average size, will be done to a turn after 45 - 50 minutes, tops. Roasting poultry breast side down for most of the cooking time is the best way to guarantee moist breast meat. The trade off is slightly paler skin and a less buxom looking bird, but it's one that I think is well worth the sacrifice, as few things are more miserable than dried out poultry breast meat.

They went wonderfully with the spice crusted butternut squash chunks I roasted alongside the hens. Both went in and came out at exactly the same time. As wonderful as the game hens were, what with their tender, delicate tasting flesh and crackling coppery skin (thanks to the mustard powder) I really thought the squash stole the thunder that night. I had intended to use cumin as I usually do, but realised too late that I had run out and settled on some crushed fennel seed and white peppercorns instead. I think that fennel is a heaven appointed match for roasted sweet squash; late have I loved thee fennel!

We enjoyed the Guigal White Rhone I reviewed last week so much, that we got another bottle to drink with dinner, and, we were not dissapointed, at all. It went wonderfully with the game hen,  as expected, but the wine and the squash seemed to be flirting outrageously throughout dinner and played off each other exquisitely! Who would've thought....

Prep 15 mins         Cook 45 minutes          Serves 4

4 cornish game hens (about 500g / 1 lb each), cleaned, washed and drained thoroughly
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp English mustard powder (I use Colman's)
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground white pepper
2 - 3 Tbsp light vegetable oil (to help crisp the skin and prevent the flesh drying out)
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1 tsp white peppercorns, crushed
1 tsp sea salt
800 g (1/2 a medium sized squash) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 5 cm (2 in) chunks
2 Tbsp light vegetable oil


Preheat oven at 230 C (450 F).

Combine the garlic powder, mustard powder, salt and pepper. Rub this mixture all over, inside and out, the game hens, including under the skin of the breast. Avoid tearing the skin. Drizzle the oil over the birds and rub into the skin. Place the birds breast side down on a rack set inside a roasting tray.

Combine the fennel seeds, peppercorns and salt. Rub this mixture all over the squash chunks. Pour over the oil and mix thoroughly. Pour mixture including the oil and spices, into a separate small roasting tray.

Put both trays into oven side by side and roast for 15 minutes. Turn temperature down to 180 C (350 F) and roast a further 15 minutes. Turn birds over onto their backs and continue to roast a final 15 minutes.

Remove both trays from oven and rest birds for 15 minutes before serving one per person. I also served lightly blanched baby green beans tossed in hot garlic butter, salt and a little Dijon mustard with this simple but delicious dinner.