Marsala chicken with fennel

    1 hour

    Cooking with a little wine – in this case the famous dessert wine from Sicily – gives great depth to a sauce: nearly all the alcohol and calories burn away, leaving behind only flavour. This sauce is thickened with a mixture of egg and lemon juice, which is typically Mediterranean and less rich than beurre manié or cream.

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    Serves: 4 

    • 1 chicken, about 1.35 kg (3 lb), jointed
    • 2 tbsp plain flour
    • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 large leek, coarsely chopped
    • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
    • 1 tsp fennel seeds
    • 90 ml (3 fl oz) Marsala
    • 500 ml (17 fl oz) chicken stock, preferably home-made
    • 2 medium-sized bulbs of fennel, trimmed and cut into chunks
    • 280 g (10 oz) shelled fresh or frozen peas
    • juice of 1 lemon
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • salt and pepper
    • To garnish
    • chopped parsley
    • shreds of lemon zest

    Prep:15min  ›  Cook:45min  ›  Ready in:1hr 

    1. Remove the skin from the chicken joints, except for any small pieces such as the wings. Season the flour and coat the joints.
    2. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a sauté pan and add the leek, parsley and fennel seeds. Cook over a moderate heat until the leek is softened, stirring frequently. Remove from the pan with a draining spoon and set aside.
    3. Add the remaining oil to the pan and sauté the chicken for 6–7 minutes or until golden. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Pour in the Marsala and bubble until it is reduced to about 2 tbsp of glaze. Pour in the stock, and return the leek mixture and dark meat chicken joints and wings to the pan (wait to add the breasts as they can overcook). Add the fennel. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 10–15 minutes, then add the breasts and continue to cook, covered, for 15 minutes or until all the chicken joints are tender. Add the peas for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
    4. Using a draining spoon, remove the chicken pieces and vegetables to a platter. Keep warm.
    5. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice into the egg. Slowly add about 4 tbsp of the hot cooking liquid to the lemon and egg mixture, stirring well, then slowly stir this mixture back into the liquid in the pan. Return the chicken and vegetables to the pan and gently warm on a very low heat so the sauce does not curdle. Season to taste. Serve garnished with parsley and lemon zest.

    Another idea

    For chicken with asparagus and fennel seeds, omit the peas and bulb fennel. Cut 1 bunch of asparagus (about 225 g/8 oz) into bite-sized pieces and add to the simmering chicken at the end of step 3. Thicken with the egg and lemon mixture, as above.

    Plus points

    Bulb fennel contains more phytoestrogen than most vegetables. This plant hormone encourages the body to excrete excess oestrogen (a high level of oestrogen is linked with greater risk of breast cancer). * Peas provide good amounts of the B vitamins B1, B6 and niacin. They also offer dietary fibre, particularly the soluble variety, plus some folate and vitamin C. * The dark meat of chicken contains twice as much iron and zinc as the light meat. It is, however, higher in fat.

    Each serving provides

    Excellent source of niacin, vitamin B6. Good source of folate, iron, potassium, selenium, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin C, zinc. Useful source of calcium, copper, vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin E.

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