Orange-brined chicken with freekeh, blood orange and fennel salad


  • Serves 4 - 6 people

Start this recipe a day ahead to brine the chicken and preserve the oranges.

  • 3 blood oranges, 1 quartered, 2 segmented
  • 1 head garlic, halved, plus 1 clove extra, finely chopped
  • For rubbing: olive oil
  • 200 gm cracked freekeh (see note)
  • ½ Spanish onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp each lemon juice and blood orange juice
  • 1½ tbsp Sherry vinegar
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 baby fennel bulbs, thinly sliced on a mandolin, fronds reserved
  • ¾ cup each (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley, coriander and mint
  • Quick preserved blood oranges
  • 100 gm (1 cup) sea salt flakes
  • 2 blood oranges, halved, skin on
  • 60 ml each (¼ cup) blood orange juice and lemon juice
  • Orange brine
  • 160 gm sea salt flakes
  • 55 gm (¼ cup) brown sugar
  • 55 ml Sherry vinegar
  • 2 blood oranges, halved
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 head garlic, halved
  • 1 tsp each dried chilli flakes and fennel seeds
  • 2 cinnamon quills
  • 1 (1.8kg) chicken
01   For quick preserved blood oranges, stir salt and 250ml water in a saucepan over high heat until salt mostly dissolves (2-3 minutes). Cut each orange half into 6 wedges, add to pan, bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until tender (25-30 minutes; the water will evaporate and the salt will crystallise). Rinse under cold running water, drain well and transfer to a container. Pour juices over to cover and refrigerate overnight. Oranges will keep refrigerated for a month in an airtight container.
02   For orange brine, stir salt, sugar, vinegar and 1 litre water in a saucepan over medium heat to dissolve sugar and salt. Squeeze in juice from orange and lemon halves, then add squeezed fruit to the liquid with garlic and spices, and bring to the simmer. Transfer to a container large enough to fit the chicken snugly, add 2.5 litres cold water and refrigerate brine until chilled (1 hour). Add chicken to brine, pushing to submerge completely, cover and refrigerate to brine (8 hours or overnight).
03   Preheat oven to 220C. Drain chicken, rinse under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Stuff with quartered blood orange and halved garlic head, tuck in wings and loosely truss legs, place in a roasting pan lined with baking paper, rub all over with oil, season to taste and roast until juices run clear when thigh is pierced with a skewer (45 minutes to 1 hour; cover chicken loosely with foil if it browns too quickly). Set aside to rest (15 minutes).
04   Cook freekeh in a saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender (15-20 minutes), then drain, rinse under cold running water, drain and set aside. Combine onion, chopped garlic and juices in a bowl, season to taste and stand until onion softens (3-4 minutes), then add vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. Rinse 3 preserved orange wedges, remove flesh (discard), then thinly slice rind and add to onion mixture with blood orange segments, fennel and fronds, and herbs, season to taste, toss to combine and serve with orange-brined chicken.

Note Cracked freekeh is available from select delicatessens. If it's unavailable, substitute coarse burghul and follow packet instructions.

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