Seville orange marinated chicken

There was a time when British cooks would use sour Seville oranges throughout the winter months in much the same way as they now use lemons.  Their zest has an intense fragrance. Today Seville oranges are only sold in Britain during the latter half of January and the very beginning of February, so if you can’t find any, follow the adaptation notes in this recipe.  The orange zest in the butter tastes amazing melted into a fragrant saffron rice (see Sundries in the Cook now index).  

I`ve also included a simple recipe for orange salad which tastes amazing when eaten with the Seville orange marinated chicken and saffron rice. If possible, try to find some lovely bitter leafed chicory or lettuce such as batavia.

These recipes come from my book Citrus & Spice (see Books), which is all about how you use flavour in food, starting with citrus notes and finishing with spice.

Serves 4

8 sprigs lemon thyme

1 shallot, sliced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

juice of 1 Seville orange or 3 tablespoons orange juice mixed with 2 tablespoons lemon juice

4 organic chicken breasts, skinned

salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the orange butter:

55g softened unsalted butter

1 Seville orange or 1 orange and  ¾ tablespoon lemon juice

For the salad

2 large oranges

2 batavia or cos lettuce hearts

1 bunch watercress, washed and cut into sprigs

1 tablespoon tarragon leaves, ripped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


1  Roughly rip the leaves of the lemon thyme and place in a mixing bowl with the shallot and olive oil.  Add the juice of a Seville orange or 3 tablespoons ordinary orange juice mixed with 2 tablespoons lemon juice.

2  Take the chicken breasts, remove the fillets and trim off any discoloured parts of the flesh.  Add the fillets to the marinade and place each breast between 2 sheets of clingfilm.  Using a rolling pin carefully beat to flatten each breast into a thin escalope.  Remove from the clingfilm and mix into the marinade.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes. 

3  Meanwhile, make the orange butter by beating together the butter and the finely grated zest of either a Seville or normal orange in the butter.  Then beat in either 1½ tablespoons Seville orange juice or ¾ tablespoons ordinary orange juice and ¾ tablespoon lemon juice.  Season to taste and, if you have time, roughly shape into a sausage on some greaseproof paper.  Gently roll into a cylinder and chill until needed.

4  For the salad: Use a sharp knife and cut away the pith and peel of the oranges.  Holding each fruit over a bowl to catch the juice, cut away each segment, so that they drop into the bowl, leaving behind the fibrous casing.  Squeeze any excess juice from the casing into the bowl. 


5  Shortly before serving, add the inner leaves of the Batavia or lettuce hearts, sprigs of watercress and ripped tarragon leaves.


6  Heat an oven-top griddle pan over a medium heat.  Once hot, remove the chicken from the marinade.  Lightly season and grill for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until cooked through.  Slice the butter and leave to melt on top of each chicken breast.


7  Season the salad with the olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Gently mix and serve with the buttery chicken breasts and saffron rice.


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