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Spring has well and truly arrived in Melbourne. Farmers markets have a bounty of broad beans, golden beets, asparagus and baby artichokes, and tomato seedlings are ready for planting, hinting that summer is not too far away.


Spring also means farewell to winter greats – oranges and fennel – which have brightened many colder winter days, and go so well together. I am sad to say farewell to oranges in particular (though I know we can buy imported ones all year round). I just love pairing these two ingredients together – fennel and orange salad has been a staple through winter, though I seldom cook fennel. A couple of weeks ago I paired them in a roast chicken dish. I love cooking whole chickens – they feel like a celebration of spring. I was inspired by Alastair Little’s “Pollo alla Orvietana” – which has 40 cloves of garlic and 40 olives per chicken. I did not have the requisite chicken livers that were to be cooked with tiny cubes of potatoes for the stuffing. So I decided to substitute them for fennel and orange – to great success. The sweetness of the oranges pairs beautifully with the salty olives and the fennel. The garlic cloves are tossed in half way through cooking and roast in the juices at the base of the roasting pan, which has orange juice added, making them sweet as well as soft and creamy from roasting. The chicken remains very moist and is full of flavour. It is lovely served with a fresh green salad on the side and makes a festive Sunday lunch.


Roast chicken with fennel and orange

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1 x 1.6 kilo (3lbs 10oz) free-range chicken [approx weight] 4tbsp-plus, good olive oil
salt and pepper
2 oranges
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1cm (2/5 inch) dice
1⁄2 fennel bulb, chopped into 1 cm (2/5 inch) dice
1 bunch fennel herb, coarsely chopped
40 kalamata olives, stoned
40 large, firm garlic cloves in their skins
1⁄2 cup dry white wine
1 cup good quality chicken stock

Make the stuffing in advance – as it takes about an hour to prepare. Fry the chopped fennel and potatoes in the olive oil and gently cook until tender – you may need more oil here. Add the fennel fronds, half the olives, 1⁄2 of an orange (peeled, pith and pips removed and cut into small pieces), the juice of the other half of the orange, season well and set aside to completely cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C (390F) . Spoon as much of the stuffing as will fit into the cavity of the chicken without overfilling; place the rest – lubricated with a little olive oil – in an oven-proof dish. Rub the chicken all over with a little more olive oil and generously season. Place in a deepish casserole dish, on its side, and put in the oven to roast for 20 minutes. Turn onto its other side and continue roasting for a further 20 minutes. Finally, turn the right way up and throw in the garlic cloves. Turn the oven down a notch (to 180C/350F), put in the dish of extra stuffing and continue cooking for a further 40-50 minutes, adding the remaining olives for the last 10 minutes (or until the internal temperature of the chicken with a meat thermometer reaches 78C/172F).

Remove the chicken to a chopping board, allow it to rest and switch off the oven. Put the garlic and olives in a dish and keep warm in the oven. Using the juices in the pan as a base, add the wine. Bring to boil and reduce until almost evaporated. Pour in the chicken stock and the juice of half an orange and reduce the lot by half. Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and arrange on a serving dish surrounded by the extra stuffing. Scatter with the olives and garlic and strew with more chopped fennel fronds. Garnish with thin slices of orange if you like.


  • Nandini says:

    This looks amazing 🙂

  • Reblogged this on Ace Food News 2014 and commented:
    #AceFoodNews – Italy on my Mind Another Way to Cook Chicken #ChefsTip

  • Jo O'mara says:

    Having eaten this dish, I can say that it is a perfect combination of cours, textures and flavours!

  • Here is the Northern Hemisphere we’re headed in the opposite direction, as the days gets shorter and chillier, but this chicken looks just as good to me now as it would in the spring…

  • Funny to read you’re in spring whilst we have just started to use the heating to warm up the chilly evenings! I’ll try this chicken dish, we will have fresh oranges here soon. Can’t wait for December and January when we can get fresh oranges from Sicily here in Umbria. They are so much better then the oranges we get during the rest of the year! Thanks for the recipe.

  • What a great looking way to prepare chicken. I love the combo of fennel and orange! And your photographs are w welcome sight. Herein Los Angeles we are in fall mode, so I love seeing all the brightness!

  • Like you, I love olives, fennel and oranges together! Added to a roast chicken sounds wonderful.

  • This looks out of this world, Paola. Yes, orange and fennel are perfect together. Waaaay back in the ’70s when I was growing up there was a Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic recipe that everyone was passing around and making, but it didn’t have all of these other wonderful flavors. Perfect for our cooler temps over on this side of the world.

    • thanks Domenica. I love your 70s recollections – reminds me of fondue, that I believe was big in the 70s (my big sister went to fondue parties) and everyone wanted a fondue kit. I can’t see that being resurrected in a hurry though.

  • Marcellina says:

    This looks delicious as do the photos of the markets. Would love to be in Melbourne at this time. I love reading your blog and have just spent some time reading some old posts particularly lovely is the post about Livia’s apple strudel and linked back from that one the Crostoli for your father. I lost my father this year. He was a great cook. It is great that you learnt the recipe for the apple strudel from your mother. These recipe are golden. xx

  • Mrs Mulberry says:

    Stunning photos of all that glorious spring produce Paola. I can’t wait to try your recipe soon. I love chicken with 40 cloves of garlic and your version sounds just perfect!

  • Emanuelle says:

    Your blog is AWE-SOME. OMG, I could (I will) spend hours on it. I love cooking, but those days, I was completely lost, without new ideas…Ok, so now, I have too many ideas, I just want to cook right now. Thank you so much for sharing your art !
    Congrats from France 🙂

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