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  • Amy Minichiello

Fennel, Olive & Tomato Baked Chicken with Fennel & Garlic butter

I can't quite recall what we had done earlier in the day, but my mind, like most days, wandered off to thoughts about dinner. Two fennel bulbs with long, luscious fronds still intact (I cant quite understand why more often than not these are removed?) and a bag of olives that needed to be used were my starting ingredients. A tin of tomatoes, anchovies and hrmmm, what else?

Fennel frond and garlic butter, whipped together until smooth. Chicken drumsticks would be the vehicle for said butter to be generously smeared all over and under the skin. A glug of extra virgin olive oil; a scattering of sea salt flakes and yes, I think this could work!

Well, I am happy to report that yes it did, well and truly work. With Ben even declaring that it was the most delicious dinner he had eaten that week! Side note: The night before we had been treated to dad's speciality - Paella! Now that's saying something.

I had not written anything down as I prepared it, as it was just a bit of a throw together, all-in-the-one-pan creation. So I grasped the closest pen and my notebook and quickly scribbled down what I could remember, going back over to the dish to look at what remained to make sure I had not missed anything.

The perfect opportunity arose for me to test it out once again. Mum, Dad, my brother and his partner came over for dinner to celebrate Mum's birthday. This time I made sure to keep my pen and notebook next to me, quickly stopping every now and then to jot down measurements and quantities.

A refreshing salad of crips gem lettuce, zucchini ribbons and roasted asparagus spears which were drizzled with a Dijon, garlic dressing and soft, creamy goats cheese crumbled on top made the perfect side dish. My attempts at homemade sourdough are slowly getting better and better each time with this particular loaf being my proudest one yet! Thanks to one very lovely lady who shared a few very helpful hints. It would have been a crime not to have had this on the table too, alongside a small dish of softened butter.

It was the first day of summer so it only seemed fitting to set the table up outside on the front deck. There is something so very lovely to be able to sit outside and enjoy meals in the warmer months. Each dish made its way out onto the table. Serving ware followed and empty plates were waiting to be filled. Of course, a few photos had to be captured and then it was time to sit, eat and enjoy these special moments of simple pleasures; family, food and summer nights.

Oh, and everyone loved the food! (thank goodness) Mum even asked where the chicken recipe came from.....I replied with a smile on my face, "Me".


Fennel, olive and tomato baked chicken drumsticks with fennel and garlic butter

Serves 4-6 with a couple of sides and good bread.

12 free-range chicken drumsticks, skin-on

2 fennel bulbs, sliced, fronds reserved for serving

4 red eschalots, peeled and sliced

1 cup of pitted black olives

2 lemons, sliced

2 400g cans of diced tomatoes

1 1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 tsp fennel seeds

6 anchovies

4 cloves of garlic, skins left on

1/2 cup of reserved fennel fronds

glug of extra virgin olive oil

pecorino or parmesan for scattering over the top

For the fennel and garlic butter

100g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

2 garlic cloves, finely diced

2 tbsp. chopped fennel fronds

In a small bowl, beat the butter, garlic, and fennel fronds together and season with a pinch of salt. set aside.

Pre-heat your oven to 200c (fan-forced). Place the sliced fennel, eschalots, olives, lemon slices, tomatoes, vinegar, fennel seeds, anchovies, garlic cloves and ½ cup of fennel fronds into a large baking dish (mine measures 30cm x 40cm). Give a pepper grinder a good few turns and then mix everything together.

Pop the drumsticks on top and then with a sharp knife cut a few slits into the top of each one. Then rub your butter mixture all over the top and into the cuts of the chicken, nestling each one down into the sauce as best as you can. Drizzle over a good glug of olive oil and then a scattering of salt flakes and place it into the oven for about 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven, spoon over some of the sauce from underneath then grate over a rather generous amount of pecorino or parmesan to your liking over the top and pop it back into the oven for another 10 minutes.

I love serving it straight from the baking dish, scattered with a few reserved fennel fronds so that everyone can help themselves and once all the chicken has gone you can all take great pleasure in tearing off pieces of bread and dunking it into whatever remains.

Serve with a crisp salad in the warmer months, or on top of polenta for the ultimate comfort meal in the cooler months. If you haven't got quite as many mouths to feed, then you can quite easily halve this recipe or make the whole amount and freeze. Leftovers make for a wonderful lunch the following day too.

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