Marsala chicken with fennel

Cooking with a little wine – in this case the famous dessert wine from Sicily – gives great depth to a sauce: nearly all the alcohol and kilojoules burn away, leaving behind only flavour. This sauce is thickened with a mixture of egg and lemon juice, which is less rich than cream.

Marsala chicken with fennel


  • 1 chicken, about 1.35 kg, jointed
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large leek, white part only, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 100 ml Marsala
  • 2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 medium–sized bulbs of fennel, trimmed and cut into chunks
  • 2 cups (310 g) shelled fresh or frozen peas
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • chopped fresh parsley to serve
  • shreds of lemon zest


  1. Remove the skin from the chicken joints, except for any small pieces such as the wings, which would be too difficult to skin.
  2. Season the flour and dust over the joints.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan and add the leek, parsley and fennel seeds.
  4. Cook over a moderate heat until the leek is softened, stirring frequently.
  5. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  6. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and sauté the chicken for 6–7 minutes or until just golden all over.
  7. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  8. Pour in the Marsala and bubble until it is reduced to about 2 tablespoons of glaze.
  9. Pour in the stock, and return the leek mixture and dark meat chicken joints and wings to the pan (wait to add the breasts as they can overcook).
  10. Add the chunks of fennel.
  11. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 10–15 minutes, then add the breasts and continue to cook, covered, for 15 minutes or until all the chicken joints are tender.
  12. Add the peas for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
  13. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken pieces and vegetables to a platter.
  14. Keep warm.
  15. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice into the egg.
  16. Slowly add about 4 tablespoons of the hot cooking liquid to the lemon and egg mixture, stirring well, then slowly stir this mixture back into the liquid in the pan.
  17. Return the chicken and vegetables to the pan and gently warm it all through, taking care to ensure that the heat is very low so the sauce does not curdle into scrambled egg.
  18. Season to taste.
  19. Serve hot, garnished with parsley and shreds of lemon zest.

Serves 4
Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 45 minutes


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