A few years ago, I watched Donna Hay on television, cooking and baking her way to exquisite looking food. I was mesmerised as much by the incredible view of the sea outside her kitchen window as by her effortless styling of the food on the plates. She cooked some chicken breasts and halloumi together with a drizzle of honey and it stuck in my mind. Despite my reservations about breast meat which I find bland and easy to over cook, I’ve made this a few times with a few tweaks, here and there.
I’ve added shallots and garlic for a deeper, more savoury flavour and included a dash of pomegranate molasses to balance the sweetness of the honey. You end up with the salty halloumi, the warmth of the thyme, the sweet honey and the sharp pomegranate molasses; a wonderful balance of flavours which are the perfect foil to the breast meat. If you can't find pomegranate molasses, then lemon juice is a good substitute.
I’ve made this with both skin on and skinless chicken breasts and prefer it with the skin left on. It protects the meat from drying out and also adds a crispy note to the textures. After I posted the recipe on my blog, a reader sent me a photo - he had added slices of fennel - I've tried that too and it's just gorgeous. It's hard to believe that so few ingredients can come together in one dish, to create something with so much depth of flavour!
I like to serve it on a bed of soft salad leaves, drizzling over the warm pan juices in place of a salad dressing. A pile of green beans or broccoli is a good accompaniment. —Selma | Selma's Table
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F and lightly oil a baking dish.
Trim the fennel and slice into thin wedges. Peel and halve the shallots and garlic. Strip all the thyme leaves off their stalks.
Place the fennel wedges over the bottom of the dish and top with the chicken and halloumi. Scatter the shallots and garlic around them.
Whisk the olive oil, honey and pomegranate molasses with most of the thyme leaves, in a small bowl and spoon it over the chicken, halloumi, fennel, shallots and garlic. Scatter over the remaining thyme and it it a few twists of the pepper mill. You won’t (shouldn't) need salt as halloumi is a very salty cheese.
Roast in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the halloumi is golden. Baste with the pan juices once or twice in that time.
Serve each portion of the chicken, halloumi, fennel, shallots and garlic on a handful of salad leaves drizzling over the pan juices instead of a salad dressing.
Excellent served with steamed green beans or broccoli on the side.