I always dread the first few weeks of January. Not because I pine for lazy holiday mornings, or because we are officially in the depths of winter, but because I am bombarded on all side with people's sanctimonious resolutions for how they are changing/improving their lives in the New Year.
I don't make resolutions. Mainly because I have the willpower of a flea. And because I do not operate well under pressure. Maybe if I lived in the southern hemisphere where the sun is shining, I would be marginally more inclined to incorporate green juice into my daily diet, but really, during our short grey days, all I really want to do is bake and eat comfort food.
Roast chicken (virtually any way) is definitely on my top 10 comfort food list. It is the first meal I make when we return from holiday, features at most Friday night dinners (as well as other weeknight meals), and in these dreary winter months, warms my bones and my heart.
Rarely a week passes without chicken thighs making an appearance at our table, and I have made a version of these roast chicken thighs with lemon and fennel more times than I care to count. I sometimes change up the herbs, or onion variety, omit the fennel or add more veg for a complete traybake meal.
Having waxed lyrical about how I NEVER make a New Years resolution, I did try my hand at something new this month. I gave my first cookery demonstration. Stress Free Suppers featured these chicken thighs with fennel and lemon, as well as herbed spelt, sauteed green beans, and finishing with pear and chocolate crumble (pictures below). Thankfully, my extremely talented and trusted cheerleader Emma (check her out on Instagram @lifeofyablon) was there to document the evening, knowing that in her absence I would never manage a single snap.
It was a great success, and while everyone was tucking into their post demonstration dinner, we discussed further classes and their topics. As we emerge out of the winter dolldrums, I would like to offer a monthly class (in central London). If you are interested in joining a session, please send me an email or leave a comment at the end with your details and I will keep you posted.
Roast Chicken with Fennel and Lemon
It is best to marinade this chicken the day before, but if you don't have time, an hour is fine.
6-8 banana shallots (approx 400g) 3 medium fennel (approx 1kg) 1 head of garlic, cloves separated but skin on 2 unwaxed lemons (preferably organic) 3-4 thyme sprigs 4 bay leaves 2 sprigs rosemary 3-4 tbsp olive oil salt and pepper 250ml white wine 12 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
Halve the shallots and peel off the outer skin. If they are on the larger side, cut each half in half again.
Quarter each of the fennel keeping the fonds in tact, and remove the central core. Cut each quarter into half again, or into thirds if the fennel are large.
Separate the garlic head, keeping the the skin on the cloves and place all the veg in a ziplock bag or in a non reactive dish/bowl.
Halve each lemon and squeeze the juice over the veg. Cut each half in two and add all 8 pieces to the marinade.
Strip the thyme and rosemary sprigs and add to the marinade with the bay leaves. Drizzle over the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and pour in the wine.
Finally add the chicken thighs, seal the bag and smoosh everything around so that the chicken is covered with the marinade. Place flat in a baking dish, and put in the fridge to marinate overnight, turning it over every so often.
When you are ready to cook, remove the chicken from the fridge. It will need an hour to come up to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 200C, with a rack in the middle of the oven.
Tip the chicken and the marinade into a shallow sided roasting tin and arrange the thighs skin side up. If they all do not fit in one layer, cook on two smaller trays. Drizzle with a little more olive oil.
When the oven is hot and the chicken is at room temp, pop in the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes until the chicken is deeply browned and cooked through.
This can be served straight out the roasting tin, or on a warmed serving plate, decorated with the roasted veggies and juices from the pan.