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Fennel baked with Parmesan

27 Mar

Like all great dishes this one is so simple and so delicious. I first tried this one New Year in Italy at our friends house where Maggie always cooks up a storm of simple food with a big taste. It makes an excellent first course, vegetable side or light lunch.

Serves  4
Prep: 15mins  Cooking 30mins

  • 2 fennel bubs
  • Olive oil
  • Cracked sea salt and black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese freshly grated

Wash and trim whole fennel bulbs then slice the bulbs vertically through the middle so that you have 2 mirror halves of each. Place these in a pan with water just covering bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15mins until only just tender. Drain and lay the 4 halves flat side down in a oiled baking dish drizzle with olive oil and a pinch each of cracked sea salt and black pepper. (if you are cooking for a dinner party this stage can be prepared in advance and left aside to finish just before serving). Bake in a moderate oven for 20-30mins. Sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan over the fennel 5 minutes before the end of cooking and put back in the oven. Serve hot sprinkled with a little more grated or shaved parmesan if desired.


Spring Salmon Soup

27 Jun

A quick fresh tasting soup inspired by spring ingredients. The combination of the orange salmon and dark green leaves looks great and tastes superb. Excellent light lunch or starter.

Serves 4  Prep 20 mins Cook 10 mins

  • 250g new potatoes
  • 2 handfuls spring greens such as kale, brocoli or spring cabbage leaves
  • 200g Spring vegetables: peas, baby carrots, asparagus, baby courgettes, mangetout peas
  • Shelled broad beans or french beans cut into short pieces, blanched
  • 4 Salmon steaks or fillets de-skinned/bonned and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil + butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • I head fennel, finely sliced
  • 1 Tsp each sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • Dash white wine
  • 1 Litre fresh fish stock
  • 1-2 tbsp Crème Fraîche
  • 1 tbsp marigold petals (optional)
  • 1 tbsp young Wild fennel fronds or dill finely chopped

This soup is put together by ladling lightly cooked fish and vegetable soup over cold new potatoes, conserving the fresh unique taste of each element.

Prepare the potatoes, peel or scrub and boil whole in salted water for 10mins, thickly sliced or cube when cool and set aside. Blanch vegetables by lowering into salted boiling water, in batches according to how long they will take to cook, 3-5mins, remove refresh in cold water. The vegetables should be slightly undercooked to preserve their colour and crunch.

In a large saucepan gently fry the salmon pieces in 1 tbsp of olive oil to seal, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add a knob of butter to the same saucepan add the onion, fennel, salt and pepper and sauté until soft. Add wine and cook for a further minute, add stock and bring to the boil add fish and vegetables to heat through. Take off the heat stir in Crème Fraîche and marigold petals. To serve, divide the cooked potatoes between the bowls and ladle the fish soup over the top. Serve with a sprinkling of finely chopped dill or young fennel leaves.

Recipe Source: devised and tested at Mas du Diable, inspired by a trip to the arctic circle and Swedish soups.

Fennel Soup

12 May

While I was processing and freezing batches of fennel bulbs, ferns and stalks I experimented with how to make the best fennel soup with all my left over trimmings. It turned out so good, I’m posting the recipe as my new favourite soup. Absolutely delicious smooth, creamy and delicate with plenty of flavour. The colour is a little off putting but; its not what it looks like, its what it tastes like that counts.

* Fennel bulbs, stalks and ferns
* 1 onion, peeled and chopped
* 2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
* Olive oil
* cracked black pepper
* 1 tsp verdurette (home made vegetable stock) (optional)
* 2 litres water or chicken stock made with a stock cube
* 1 apple, cored & chopped
* 2 bay leaves
* 1 tsp caraway seeds

In a large roomy pan add a thin layer of olive oil. Throw the onions and garlic, with a pinch of black pepper and the caraway seeds, into the pan and fry gently for a few minutes, until the onions are soft. Wash and finely chop the fennel and add it to the pan, stir well and let it sweat. Add the rest of the ingredients cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove the bay leaves and liquidise the soup. Check the seasoning and serve as it is or as one of these variations, with a scattering of chopped fennel leaves.

I was on a roll with this fennel soup and ended up making several different versions, all delicious in their own way.

Fennel Velouté
Follow the recipe as above and after liquidising the soup pass it through a sieve to make an extra smooth and thinner soup, mix together an egg with a little crème fraîche and stir into the hot soup and you’ve got yourself what the French might call a Velouté de Fenouil. This version is delicate enough to be served at swanky dinner parties or in cups as a taster. More down to earth I drank the thinner soup before adding the crème fraîche and egg and it was great, a cup-a-soup on the move.

Fennel & Smoked Salmon Soup (pictured)
Follow the recipe for the Velouté and just before serving top with thin strips of smoked salmon.

Freezing The basic soup can be frozen. I recycle wide neck 1 litre plastic milk bottles, which are perfect for freezing soups.

Pumpkin & Fennel Soup

24 Jan

This is an absolutely delicious soup, a perfect combination of tart tomato, aromatic fennel and sweet nutty pumpkin. It makes a filling lunch or starter. The secret is not to over cook the pumpkin so that all the separate flavours are present and you can really taste each ingredient. I am not sure of the origins of this recipe as i found just the combination of flavours scribbled in one of my notebooks.

Serves 4 Prep 15 min Cook 30-45 min

* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 1 Onion
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
* 1 dry cayenne chilli, de-seeded and crumbled
* 1 tsp fennel seeds
* 2 bay leaves
* 700g pumpkin
* 200g peeled chopped tomatoes or passata
* 3/4 -1 litre water

Peel and chop the onion finely. Fry onion in a large soup pan in the olive oil until starting to brown. Add the fennel and fry until softened add the garlic and fennel seed and fry for a few more minutes. Add bay leaves the chilli, tomato and 1 litre water. Cook covered for 15mins, meanwhile peel and chop the pumpkin into bit size pieces. Add the pumpkin cover and cook for another 15-30mins until the pumpkin is tender. Before serving I like to gently mash a little of the pumpkin against the side of the pan with a fork, this helps give the soup a more interesting texture and release the pumpkin flavour.

Cook’s Tip: I have used Marina di Chioggia, an Italian Heirloom pumpkin for this recipe but you could use any dense nutty orange fleshed pumpkin.

This recipe was originally posted on on 24/1/2007.