Cornish Hens with Garlic and Rosemary

‘C’ and I found a pair of frozen Cornish hens the other day in Superama (our local supermarket). I got quite excited for two reasons…firstly, finding anything slightly exotic in Superama is rare, and secondly I actually got Cornish hens confused with guinea fowl and imagined cooking a nice gamey meal over the weekend.

Needless to say when I got home and did my research on Cornish Hen recipes – I was disappointed. It turns out Cornish hens are not game at all-  they are domestic immature chickens – usually five to six weeks old. I wasn’t sure I liked the sound of that.

Yet, I found this recipe on All Recipes ( and it actually reminded me of a recipe I had seen from Delia Smith which I have always wanted to try. 

I have to say that it was delicious, and I would definitely make this dish again. Both chickens were perfectly cooked and came out of the oven that lovely golden brown colour and crispy skin which I am constantly striving for. Please do not be afraid of the amount of garlic that is used in this recipie. Although it may seem extreme, but due to the length of time that the garlic is roasted for they lose that harsh ‘garlicy’ flavour and acquire a lovely mild-roasted sweet taste  – which is the base for an incredible gravey.

The original recipe call for 4 Cornish hens for 4 people – one Cornish hen each!! Really, I think that is overly excessive! ‘C’ and I shared one hen and that was completely adequate for a meal accompanied with sautéed potatoes with rosemary as well as roast carrots. We kept the other hen to use throughout the week as cold-cuts!

Cornish Hens with Garlic and Rosemary

Serves 4 (using 1.5 a hen each)


  • 2 Cornish hens
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 24 cloves garlic, peeled (I only had 12 at home)
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, for garnish


Preheat oven to 230 °C.

Rub hens with 1 tblsp olive oil and lightly season them with salt and pepper (inside and out). Place a lemon wedge , a sprig of rosemary and a crushed garlic clove in each cavity. Place both hens in a large roasting pan or Pyrex and arrange the garlic cloves around the hens. Place the hens in the oven. 

As soon as you put the hens in the oven, reduce the temperature to 175 °C and roast for 25 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together wine, chicken broth, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. After the 25 minutes pour the wine-broth mixture over the hens and continue roasting for another 25 minutes, or until the hens are golden brown and juices run clear. Baste with pan juices every 10 minutes.

Transfer hens to a platter, pouring any cavity juices into the roasting pan.  Put the Pyrex with all the juices and garlic over the stove and boil until liquids reduce to a sauce consistency – about 6 minutes. I like to put a bit of milk or cream in my sauce to make it slightly richer – but that is entirely up to you.

Cut hens in half lengthwise and arrange on plates. Spoon sauce and garlic around the  hens and finish by garnishing with rosemary sprigs.


NOTE:  Taking the advise from the reviews here are a few tips I picked up:  

  1.  Despite only using 2 hens I kept all the other amounts the same as this leaves you with a lovely amount of gravey at the end.
  2. I poured in  a little bit of stock into the pan, before putting the hens into the oven so as not to burn the garlics.
  3. If you don’t have Cornish hens, you can use a normal chicken.

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