Everyone knows that the flavour of licorice is a love-hate thing. Personally I’m not a hater but I still struggle with how to use fennel sometimes. That aniseed flavour might go well with all sorts of meat and fish but it can overpower other vegetables quite easily. So I end up using it with onions as a base to stocks and soups and curries but I know I’m not doing it justice.
And that’s where braising comes in! The slow, moist cooking technique brings out the sweetness of fennel and mellows the punch of its licorice flavours. Add a dash of cream and cheese at the end and you even get a bubbling crisp topping too – all of a sudden fennel goes with anything because it’s so subtle and delicious, mmm…
I decided to toss in some leeks as well which turned amazingly buttery and soft. Celery also benefits from this treatment and might even convert some of you haters out there!
Braised fennel and leeks
- 2-4 medium leeks, tops and bottoms trimmed off and cut in half lengthways
- 2 fennel bulbs, tops and bottoms trimmed and cut in half
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- a knob of butter
- 100ml white wine
- 250ml vegetable stock
- a splash of double cream
- grated parmesan cheese
- Pre-heat oven to 180C. Melt the butter in an oven-proof frying pan and add the leeks and fennel.
- Heat over medium-high heat until browned slightly. Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the white wine and cook until the alcohol smell disappears, about 5 minutes.
- Add the stock, cover and place in the oven for 50-60 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
- Remove from the oven, stir in the cream and top with cheese. Place back in the oven, uncovered for 5-10 minutes until golden and bubbling (you can also use the grill to help this along if you like).
- Serve nice and hot and covered in the creamy sauce (if it’s too wet you can reduce over a medium-heat for a few minutes).
This was so yummy I couldn’t bear to let it get cold for me to take photos of the final result! Sorry folks. So here’s a photo and quick recipe for something else tasty I made recently to make up for it…
Squash, carrot and chipotle soup
Soften a couple sliced onions in butter, add a tablespoon of cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon chilli powder (optional), 2 crushed garlic cloves and 1 chopped chipotle chilli (substitute 2 tsp each smoked paprika and chilli flakes if you can’t get chipotles). Add the chopped veg (about half a large butternut squash and 4 medium carrots, large dice). Cover with 500ml of vegetable stock, bring to the boil and simmer, covered for 30-45 minutes until the vegetables have softened. Blend until smooth and stir in a tablespoon of brown sugar and 100ml of cream. Season to taste and serve!
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