Chicken, fennel and orange salad with saffron

This salad is not conventional in the slightest, mostly consisting of herbs and punchy flavours, with no lettuce in sight. Crunchy sliced fennel brings a bitter aniseed flavour and contrasts with sweetness of the sticky saffron and orange dressing, all the while the occasional hot bite of red chili is another tingly shock for the taste buds. The chicken is seared in a skillet to colour nicely then popped in the oven, pull apart the chicken when still slightly warm, coat with the dressing then toss in the salad. I'd recommend serving this with crusty bread, perhaps a sourdough loaf and a glass of rosé for lunch on a sleepy summer afternoon.


  • 1 orange

  • 50g honey

  • ½ tsp saffron threads

  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar

  • about 300ml water

  • 1kg skinless chicken breast

  • 4 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 small fennel bulbs, thinly sliced

  • 15g picked coriander leaves

  • 15g picked basil leaves, torn

  • 15 picked mint leaves, torn

  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

  • 1 red chilli, thinly sliced

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

  • salt and black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas Mark 6. Trim and discard 1cm off the top and tail of the orange and cut it into 12 wedges, keeping the skin on. Remove any pips.

  2. Place the wedges in a small saucepan with the honey, saffron, vinegar and just enough water to cover the orange wedges. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about an hour. At the end you should be left with soft orange and about 3 tablespoons of thick syrup; add water during the cooking if the liquid gets very low. Use a food processor to blitz the orange and syrup into a smooth, runny paste; again, add a little water if needed.

  3. Mix the chicken breast with half the olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper, and place on a very hot, ridged griddle pan. Sear for about 2 minutes on each side to get clear char marks all over. Transfer to a roasting tin and place in the oven for 15–20 minutes, or until just cooked.

  4. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, but still warm, tear it with your hands into rough and quite large pieces. Place in a large mixing bowl, pour over half the orange paste and stir well. (The other half you can keep in the fridge for a few days and would make a good addition for herb salsa to serve with oily fish such as mackerel or salmon.) Add the remaining ingredients to the salad, including the rest of the olive oil, and toss gently. Taste, add salt and pepper and, if needed, some more olive oil and lemon juice.

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