Sardinians love to braise meat with olives, to impart a delicious, olive-scented saltiness, and they also love to cook fennel beneath braising meat, so it becomes soft and sweet with the meat juices. This chicken tray-bake with orange and fennel, which is based on a brilliant Nigella recipe, and which I made many times in England, gets the Sardinian treatment, a dish which has become a staple in our home.
8 chicken thighs
2 bulbs fresh fennel
2 tsp fennel seeds
3 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Seville oranges, zest and juice (you can use one normal orange and one lemon if you cannot find Sevilles)
650ml white wine
60ml Extra virgin Olive oil
2 tsp sea salt
A handful of green olives
Make a marinade with the citrus juice and zest, mustard, oil, salt, fennel seeds and wine.
Slice each fennel bulb into quarters lengthways, and then each quarter lengthways into three.
Place the chicken, the fennel slices and the marinade in a sealable plastic bag, seal well and leave in a dish/bowl in the fridge overnight, or for at least a couple of hours.
The next day, preheat the oven to 200. Decant the entire contents of the bag onto the base of the dish, arranging the chicken, skin side up, on top. Scatter over the olives, willy-nilly. Drizzle an extra bit of oil on top of the chicken (to help it brown). Place the dish in the oven and cook for one hour, until the chicken is brown and the fennel is tender.
Remove from the oven and reduce the sauce for a minute or two, either by placing the whole dish over the hob, or decanting the liquid and reducing it into a separate saucepan. It should become a delicious sticky ‘gravy’ consistency.
Serve, with the sauce drizzled over, and some fresh fennel fronds on top.