Fantastic chicken with fennel and fine spices

Fantastic chicken with fennel and fine spices

Polasti afenochiatai vantazati

Helen Cathcart

This might seem like an odd title but it was the name given by medieval chef the Anonimo Veneziano who wrote Libro per Cuoco, a collection of Venetian dishes. He was obviously pretty impressed by his own recipes. With a little help from our friend and spice queen Manjula Samarasinghe we were able to use the typical spices from medieval Venice, such as fennel seeds and saffron, to create this dish, which is well worth its title. Anonimo Veneziano adds egg yolks to thicken the sauce like a fricassee and saffron to give it colour. He used lardo, the seasoned and cured back fat of pork, which, if you can find it, is delicious. Failing that, sunflower oil, as we have used here, is perfectly acceptable.


Quantity Ingredient
8 skinless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
15g fresh ginger, grated or minced in a food processor
2 garlic cloves, grated or minced in a food processor
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped and green fronds reserved if there are any
1/2 teaspoon saffron strands
400ml Vegetable stock
or 400ml Rita's chicken stock
or 400ml water
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 tablespoon lemon juice


  1. Put the chicken thighs, salt, pepper, vinegar, ginger and garlic into a clean plastic bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to overnight.
  2. Dry-fry the fennel seeds in a small frying pan. As they become fragrant and turn golden remove them from the heat and pour on to a plate to cool. Grind 1 teaspoon of them in a pestle and mortar or spice blender, reserving the rest whole for later.
  3. Put the onion into a large frying pan that has a lid and fry gently in the sunflower oil over a low heat until soft. Add the chicken with the marinade, chopped fennel, ground fennel seeds, saffron and stock, bring to the boil and then turn the heat to medium. Scatter over the remaining whole seeds. Cover and cook the chicken until it falls from the bones, around 45 minutes.
  4. Mix the egg yolks with the lemon juice in a small bowl. Push the chicken to one side of the pan so the juices gather in a pool. Pour in yolk and lemon, stirring through quickly to thicken the sauce. Do not allow to boil. Serve with rice or bread and buttered carrots with herbs.
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