Diana Henry’s chicken with marsala, olives and blood oranges

Diana Henry’s chicken with marsala, olives and blood oranges
  • Serves icon Serves 4-6
  • Time icon Hands-on time 25 min, simmering time 20 min, oven time 40 min

Diana Henry’s Sicilian-style chicken recipe makes a full-of-flavour dinner using the whole chicken.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium British free-range chicken, jointed into 8 (see how to joint a chicken here)
  • 2 small red onions, halved and cut into crescent moon-shaped slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 100ml dry marsala (see tip)
  • Juice 1 blood orange, plus 2 blood oranges (see tip)
  • 8 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1-2 large handfuls good quality green olives
  • A little caster sugar


  1. Heat the oven to 190°C/fan170°C/gas 5. On the hob, heat the olive oil in a broad, shallow casserole or ovenproof pan in which the chicken joints can lie in a single layer (I use a cast-iron pan). Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then brown on both sides, skin-side first, over a medium-high heat. Be careful not to turn the chicken pieces over before they come away easily from the base of the pan, otherwise you will tear the skin. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Drain off all but a couple of tablespoons of the oil, then add the onions to the pan. Cook over a low-medium heat for around 5 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Add the marsala to the pan and scrape up all any flavourful sticky bits on the bottom. Add the blood orange juice. Return the chicken – and any meat juices – to the pan, skin-side up. Season, then add 6 of the thyme sprigs. Bring to the boil, then take the pan off the heat and put it in the oven for 20 minutes.
  4. 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 in broad slices from top to bottom. Slice the oranges into rounds and pick out any pips.
  5. Take the chicken out of the oven, then add the olives and lay over the sliced blood oranges (the oranges should stay on top, out of the liquid). Sprinkle the orange slices with a little sugar, then return the pan to the oven and cook for another 20 minutes. The juices should have reduced, the orange slices should be golden, even caramelised in patches, and the chicken should be cooked through.
  6. Add the leaves of the remaining 2 thyme sprigs, spoon over some of the juices, then serve immediately.

Recipe from Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand.

delicious. tips

  1. If using regular oranges, you might need a squeeze of lemon juice at the end of cooking to balance the flavours. If you can’t find dry marsala (Waitrose stocks one), sweet marsala will work too.

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


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