Indian Spice Rubbed Cornish Game Hens

After a Thanksgiving meal, the next day, I could not even look at the turkey. The carcass of this massive bird in the fridge was staring at us and out of guilt we had some of the remaining leftovers as scavengers for lunch. Images of cowboy movies, desert scenes roadrunners and Clint Eastwood running through my mind. But, I was craving not a pinch but a punch of spice! Which brings me to my sister and some triggered memories. These memories awakened from hibernation as I was craving spicy food and I have a teenager with a newly found freedom. I have probably mentioned that I am the oldest of six, who in their right mind would have six kids within eight years?! Back then life wasn't as calculated, it just happened! Two of my siblings were in boarding schools in Israel, ok don't have images of royal England running through your mind, they are further from the truth! My sister was at an agricultural boarding school while I was in the army, she is four years younger than I. One day I showed up visiting her, knocking on her dorm room.

I heard a rustle and a shuffle but no one came to the door. I knocked some more but to no avail no one was coming to the door. Heard some more whispers and maybe some giggles which left me completely puzzled, surprisingly not angered! After what felt like an eternity, my sister opens the door with sleepy demeanor and cob webs in her eyes as if I have awakened her right out of her siesta. She told me they were picking some olives and worked hard in the morning. Even back then that information side tracked me from the matter at hand. I was mesmerized with their silvery hues and ancient deep roots, the tortures I subjected my son to, pointing and quizzing him, as we passed every date, olive, banana tree or blossoms of an orange or almond trees throughout his life is a post for another day and time. Back to my sister with her theatrics of a sleeping beauty, as I enter the room I smell cigarettes which I promptly asked her about, to which she responded how terrible her roommates are, how much she hates and despises them, how unbearable it was to live with them and spoke of the broken homes they came from. I fell for it, only years later to discover it was all a sham, my sister was wide awake and smoking. She's got some spice! No wonder my grandfather called her tsutsundry (chuchundry) which is a mouse in Hindi or Marati, but fearful, scared, sheepish, mousy was not her character it was more cute little mouse, mischievous, going for that slice of cheese on the counter or refrigerator. A very talented girl, a great joker as you can see and imagine, could have been a stand up comedienne or a singer. Playful as her curls are, devilish little girl even at four sneaking into my grandfather's paperwork and tearing his checks up to smittens, playing a spitting game and targeting him as a bull's eye! I did have some audacity, not much mischief in my straight hair though, but not that sort of audacity of lifting bazooka from the neighborhood's little hole in the wall grocery store. She was and still is a tsutsundry alright,  though only belly aches funny with no criminal mind or tendencies! A befitting nickname indeed my grandfather bestowed upon her, tsutsundry!!

On aside note, I was really wrecking my brain, I know personification is when you attribute human traits to inanimate objects or animals, but how about the reverse? What you call attributing animal traits to humans completely escapes me.

This recipe emerged as I was brain storming on twitter asking for suggestions for a spicy rub for these beautiful cornish game hens (thanks Kulsum @JourneyKitchen). I had just gotten the turkey for Thanksgiving, but went completely overboard excited and got these hens, a duckling and my old friend chuck! I also called my mom for suggestions and her recipe and relied some on my own experience and intuition. This rub can easily be served as a chutney or a dip. Or use part of if as a rub and the remainder serve as a condiment along side the meal. Make sure to portion some of it aside before you rub the hens as not to contaminate the chutney/dip/condiment. I also used the mortar and pestle to pound the dry heat spices to a pulp but you can use a spice grinder or coffee grinder, should work just fine! You will also need a food processor for the wet rub.

Indian Spice Rubbed Cornish Game Hens

4 Cornish game hens (super small)

Dry rub ingredients:
1 Star anise (snapped to pieces)
1 Cinnamon stick (snapped to pieces)
4 Whole cloves
1/2 Teaspoon whole peppercorns
6 Cardamon pods, shelled
1 Teaspoons coriander seeds
1 Teaspoon cumin seeds
2 dry red chilis
1/2 Teaspoon salt

Dry rub directions:
On a low heat preheat a skillet, add all dry ingredients and continually toss for couple of minutes until aroma is released. Be careful not to burn spices. Remove from heat, let cool slightly and grind in a spice/coffee grinder or in a mortar and a pestle.

Wet rub ingredients:
1/2 Large bunch of fresh cilantro leaves
1 Medium red onion
1 piece (2/3 index finger length) of fresh ginger (peeled and cut into 3-4 piece)
6 Garlic cloves (peeled)
2-4 Teaspoons canola oil
4 Jalapeno peppers
1/2 Teaspoons salt

Wet ingredients directions:
Process all ingredients in a food processor till you get a paste.

General directions:
Add ground dry ingredient to wet ingredient paste. At this point you can save a portion of the combined paste as a chutney condiment to go with dinner. Rinse cornish game hens and pat completely dry with paper towels. Make some incisions in the flesh of the hens through the skin. Salt slightly inside cavity and out and rub wet-dry paste inside and out of the cornish game hens. Wrap each cornish game hen in saran wrap and refrigerate to marinate for a minimum of two hours. Once marinated, place in a Dutch oven or any oven safe dish with a lid and roast at 350F preheated oven for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. You can take lid off for last 10 minutes to get some color. Be careful not to dry the cornish game hens. Coat them well to keep them moist!

I served this dish with basmati, onion, raisins and turmeric rice as well as onion, mustard, cumin, jalapeno and turmeric potatoes.


  1. Mmm! That looks fantastic! I've never tried Cornish hens but I'm feeling inspired!

  2. The only thing I don't think E would like in this recipe is the cilantro... but besides that this looks absolutely wonderful. A punch of spice indeed!

  3. The photos are stunning. The story was pretty awesome too. Love it. Thanks for sharing.


  4. Amanda, Yes please do. Cornish game hens are absolute delicacy. Thanks for dropping by and commenting!
    Rachel, Thanks. It was really delicious. S said I outdid myself yesterday.
    Brian, Thanks. Few months back there were links buzzing around about cilantro and people's taste buds. This is one of the ingredients I can't live without!
    Velva, Thanks for stopping by and the compliments. My sister is still one of the only people in the world that makes me laughs\ hysterically and brings me to tears and belly aches.

  5. Lovely Write up and a great recipe ..... not to forget awesome clicks !!

    Cheers & Happy Cooking,

  6. OMG! It's a miniature turkey ... just kidding. This looks divine and the aroma coming from the oven must be intoxicating.

  7. Thanks Satrupa!
    Ahahaha Ken! Completely didn't expect that one but was a real good laugh! It was absolutely divine yesterday evening. S said I outdid myself and as you know I soak up every compliment coming from him! :)

  8. Cornish hens w/Indian spice - fantastic combo! And I bet the house smells heavenly when it's all in the oven!!!! Mouthwatering . . .

  9. this new word! I love your detailed stories. I want to hear more about you in the Israeli army. This rub is spicy and looks delicious! Thank you for a great story Shulie. Xo

  10. Thanks for the shoutout Shulie! This looks great and can't wait to try it next time I feel for web rub! And loved the story about your sisters. It often surprises me how different siblings can be and yet so bonded. My sister is very much like yours and we call her Saklu hehe basically trying to mean a little sparrow! coz she's really tiny :D

  11. What a fabulous way to serve cornish hens. My mom adores these petite birds, and I'm eager to try this recipe out on her. We need a little spice around my parent's house! I loved hearing your anecdote about your sister...aren't those memories the best. And I love "tsutsundry" too! Such a great word. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope you have a wonderful Monday!

  12. I think I need to try that on the next chicken we roast!, yummy!

  13. Thank you Deb, Lora, Kulsum and Monet, yup, Tsutsundry is very catchy. My sister is full of personality. The recipe can be toned down Lora use only two jalapenos and 1/2 dried red pepper if you don't wish it to be too spicy. The house and my hands were extremely fragrant! :)

  14. Beautiful clicks of the spices....:) Just discovered this beautiful blog....:) Glad I did....

  15. Thanks Kat!!
    Thanks and nice meeting you as well Ann. Thanks for stopping by!! Please visit again!

  16. I know exactly what you mean about craving something spicy after the Thanksgiving extravaganza!! Beautiful photos and the spice rub sounds intoxicating!!

  17. Thanks Nancy! I could not have put in better! Intoxicating it is! A recipe for many ocassions and years to come. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

  18. Aww man, this looks delightful. Cornish game hens are all over the local markets at the moment. Perhaps I can convince the husband to make one of these for dinner this week! Will have to report back and let you know how that goes!


  19. The recipe sounds fantastic and \i want to make it next weekend for a small dinner party. Do you have a rice recipe that would work well with this?

    Thanks ...Greg

  20. Hmm a plain basmati, salted to taste should work beautifully check out I just commented w/a quick recipe on my Indian, Pancake and Salsa post. You can add 1/2 tsp turmeric and frozen sweet peas, even curry leaves, but I made plain and mixed excess rub from hen (after cooked on plate) with rice. It's superb!