Chicken with Marsala, olives and blood oranges

Sat, Mar 7, 2015, 01:00

  • Serves: 4
  • Cooking Time: 60 mins
  • Course: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • Serves 4-61 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium skin-on chicken, jointed into 8
  • 2 small red onions, halved and cut into crescent moon-shaped slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 100ml dry Marsala
  • Juice of 1 blood orange, plus 2 blood oranges
  • 8 sprigs of thyme
  • 3 tbsp good-quality green olives
  • A little caster sugar


This came about because I like blood oranges so much. I put them with other ingredients that make me think of Sicily – Marsala and olives – and so it was born. It can be hard to find dry Marsala (some people will tell you it doesn’t exist), but persevere. When blood oranges aren’t in season, use regular oranges.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas 5. Heat the olive oil in a broad, shallow casserole in which the chicken joints can lie in a single layer (I use a cast-iron pan). Season the chicken and brown it over a medium-high heat on both sides, skin side first. Be careful not to turn it over before it comes away easily from the base of the pan, otherwise you will tear the skin.

Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside. Drain off all but a couple of tbsp of the oil and add the onions. Cook over a medium-low heat until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another two minutes.

Deglaze the pan with the Marsala, stirring round to scrape up all the fl avour that’s stuck to the base. Add the blood orange juice. Return the chicken – with any juices that have run out of it – to the pan, skin side up. Season and add six of the sprigs of thyme. Bring the liquid underneath the chicken to the boil, then take the pan off the heat and put it in the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut a slice off the bottom and top of each whole blood orange so they have a flat base on which to sit. Using a very sharp knife, cut the peel and pith from each orange, working around the fruit and cutting the peel away in broad slices from top to bottom. Slice the oranges into wheels and flick out any pips you see.

Add the olives to the chicken and lay over the sliced blood oranges. (The oranges should stay on top, out of the liquid.) Sprinkle the orange slices with sugar and return the pan to the oven. Cook for another 20 minutes. The juices under the chicken should have reduced, the orange slices have turned golden, even caramelized in patches, and the chicken be cooked through. Add the leaves of the remaining two sprigs of thyme – it just lifts the fl avour – carefully spooning some of the juices over them. Serve immediately.