Recipe: roasting-tin chicken with fennel and citrus by Bee Wilson

A roasting-tin recipe with sweet and sour flavours

A baking tray with baked fennel and chicken thighs
(Image credit: Matt Russell)

This recipe, adapted from one found in "Bitter Honey", Letitia Clark’s marvellous book about Sardinian food, is one of my most made roasting-tin meals, said Bee Wilson. I find it both comforting and uplifting. The chicken thighs are roasted with fennel, white wine, citrus and Dijon. As it cooks, the fennel is impregnated with the wine and chicken fat until it becomes meaty and sweet and sour.

Ingredients: makes 2 portions

  • Zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon and 1 unwaxed orange 
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard 
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds 
  • 200ml white wine 
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs 
  • 3 fennel bulbs, fronds reserved, bulbs cut into wedges 
  • a handful of fat green olives


  • If you are feeling organised, start the day before or a few hours ahead. Whisk together the citrus juice and zest, Dijon, olive oil, fennel seeds, wine and 1 tsp of sea salt and put into a freezer bag along with the chicken. 
  • Chill for a couple of hours or up to 12 hours. This will help to tenderise the chicken. But in all honesty, I’ve often forgotten to do this and it still tastes great. 
  • Either way, take out of the bag (if using) and put the chicken and all the marinade ingredients into a roasting tin. Slice the fennel bulbs into wedges and add them, along with the olives. Put into the oven and switch the oven on to 200°C fan for an hour, or until the fennel is meltingly soft and the chicken is bronzed (check after 45 minutes). 
  • Taste the sauce for seasoning. If the wine has evaporated away, splash some water into the pan to make a simple gravy. 
  • Again, taste for seasoning. It shouldn’t need much, because of all that citrus and wine. Eat with some crunchy green fennel fronds on top and good bread for mopping. 
  • Tip: if you decide to scale this up when cooking for more people – which is a great idea – don’t scale up the liquid too much or the chicken will drown in it. For example, if you triple the amount of chicken, it’s best to only double the liquid.

Taken from "The Secret of Cooking: Recipes for an Easier Life" in the Kitchen by Bee Wilson, published by Fourth Estate at £28. To buy from The Week Bookshop for £21.99 (incl. p&p), visit

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