We went over to our friends Mel and Jay jay's house for dinner last week. We knew we would be in for a treat as they're both very foodie and brilliant, experimental cooks. Not a 'meat and two veg' kind of household - they use ingredients I've never even heard of and wouldn't dare to introduce into my own cooking. They're big fans of the Ottolenghi movement, or 'lesbian food' as Chaz insists on calling it.
This salad was especially sensational. I don't even like fennel and I had thirds. If you're looking for a light, summery creation, even the fussiest of fuss pots will love this.
It was created by the chefs at Ottolenghi in Belgravia and is the biggest summer hit there. If you don't like fennel, use a combination of spring onion and rocket instead.
½ tsp saffron threads
1 tbsp white-wine vinegar
About 300ml water
1kg skinless chicken breast
4 tbsp olive oil
2 small fennel bulbs, sliced thin
15g picked coriander leaves
15g picked basil leaves, torn
15 picked mint leaves, torn
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 red chilli, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt and black pepper
Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Trim and discard 1cm off the top and tail of the orange and cut it into 12 wedges, keeping the skin on but picking out any pips. Place the wedges in a small saucepan along with the honey, saffron, vinegar and just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for about an hour. At the end, you should be left with soft orange pieces and about three tablespoons of thick syrup; add water during the cooking, if needed. Use a food processor to blitz the orange (skin and all) and syrup into a smooth, runny paste; again, add water if needed.
Rub the chicken breasts with half the olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper, and place on a very hot ridged griddle pan. Sear for about two minutes on each side, to get clear char marks all over. Transfer to a roasting tray and roast for 15-20 minutes, until just cooked.
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, but still warm, break it up with your hands into quite large pieces. Put these in a large bowl, pour over half the orange paste and stir. (The remaining orange syrup will keep in the fridge for a few days, and makes a good addition to a herb salsa to serve with oily fish.)
Add the remaining ingredients to the salad, including the rest of the oil, and toss gently. Taste, add salt and pepper and, if needed, some more olive oil and lemon juice.
They also served these delicious raw, grated courgettes with a basil and parmesan dressing