With Christmas well and truly behind us (I admit itI am finding it hard to let go!) and the New Year ushering in a fresh startit is tempting to think that the springand all the lightness of spirit and flavour that it entailsis imminent. Yet the weather outside my window every morning is a harsh reminder that the cold chill of winter is still upon us; while the bite of the evening’s cold still makes me crave for the warmth and comfort of heartywintery fare.
One of the many things I love about winter are the aromas that it brings: the coolclean fizz of freshly fallen snowthe heady smoke of roaring wood fires and richslow roasting meatsthe mellow waft of cinnamon and spiceand the sprightlycitrus smell of oranges and satsumas – pierced with a fingernailpeeled or poked with cloves; their heady perfume can fill a room with a fresh waft of wintery warmth.
I simply adore those scents and they led me to want to make a dish that was both rich with winter flavour but had the freshrenewing taste of citrus and that makes a smallif hesitantnod towards those warmer months to come - and so was born my roasted Chicken with OrangeFennel and Olives. I love the combination of orange and olives: they seem made for one another and revel in the flavours of their sun-bakedMediterranean roots. Not very wintery you may thinkbut there is something about the combination of orangeolive and fennel that echoes the essence of those seasonal spicesand anywaydetails aside this dish is just delicious to eat whatever the season and a total breeze to make – perfect for when you come in from the cold and want to create something simple and delicious to warm you through.
I recommend serving it with a big pile of steamed white basmati riceall the better to absorb the wonderful orange and olive oil juices that pool around the roasted chicken and fennel. I think the flavours of the chicken and its juices give a perfect balance and so like to keep it simple and serve alongside a green herb saladalthough it works equally well with some wilted spinach with perhaps a little splash of garlic oil.
CHICKEN WITH ORANGEFENNEL AND OLIVES
4 skinless chicken breasts
2 fennel bulbs
1 large red onion
2 handfuls of pitted black olives
2 cloves of garlic
Grated zest of 1 and juice of ½ an orange
3 tbsp olive oil
A small bunch of parsley
Preheat the oven to 200c (180c Fan). Begin by peeling the onion and slicing in to thin half rounds. Trim the fennel bulb and cut widthways in to thin rounds. Peel and crush the garlic and finely chop the parsley. Combine 1 tbsp of the olive oil and the orange juice in a bowl. Take each chicken breast and score three timesapproximately ½ cm deep (this will help the chicken to cook evenly) and season wellthen place in the orange marinade and set aside.
In a large ovenproof dish or roasting pan combine the oniongarlicfennelolives and orange zest with the remaining 2tbsp of olive oil. Mix thoroughlyseason well and place in the oven to cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the ovenstir well and then place the chicken breasts in the dish so that they are resting on the fennel and onions. Return to the oven and cook for 18 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear when pierced with a knife. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve while hoton a bed of white basmati rice.