Chicken & baked fennel with lemon, olives & tomato recipe image

Print Chicken & baked fennel with lemon, olives & tomato

This is ultimately a one-pan dish, bar frying the fennel in the early stages. A key part of the flavour comes from all the fat, juices and debris from the roasting chicken legs. The browning of the fennel not only starts the cooking process but also adds flavour and colour from all those lightly caramelised edges. This is known as a ‘Maillard reaction’ – the sugars react at high heat. It accounts for the complex flavours that result from searing and roasting food.

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken legs
  • Light olive oil, for roasting
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 60g green olives
  • 1 piece preserved lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 lemon
  • 15g thyme
  • Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220˚C/Gas Mark 8. Place the chicken legs in the roasting tray, turn them in 2 tablespoons of light olive oil, and generously season with salt and pepper. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes while you get the fennel ready.
  2. Trim the stalk tops away from the fennel. Cut each bulb into quarter’s, remove the tough central core with a small V-shaped cut. Slice each quarter into 3, lengthways.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the frying pan and fry the fennel on a high heat, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown on the outside, 4-5 minutes. You may need to do this in batches. Set the browned fennel to one side.
  4. Peel and finely slice the onion. Roughly chop the tomatoes. Cut the olives into half’s. Scrape the soft pulpy flesh from the preserved lemon, discard it and then chop the skin into thin strips. Leaving their skins on, give the garlic cloves a bash so that they split open.
  5. Remove the chicken from the oven. Take the legs out of the pan and set aside. Add 4 tablespoons of water and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any leftover bits of chicken from the pan. Drop the oven temperature to 180˚C/Gas Mark 4.
  6. Add the fried fennel, fennel seeds, sliced onion, chopped tomatoes, halved olives, bashed garlic and preserved lemon to the tray. Season with salt and pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice.
  7. Place the chicken legs back on top of the fennel mix and bake for another 30 minutes, until the chicken and fennel are tender. 10 minutes from the end, add a few sprigs of thyme to the tray and give the fennel mix a couple of turns before returning to the oven.
  8. When ready, remove the papery garlic skins and the thyme twigs from the pan. Taste the roasted fennel and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper and lemon juice as you see fit. Serve the chicken on the baked fennel.
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