I was recently surprised when running a couple of cooking classes that people were not friends with fennel or had ever been acquainted with fennel and I am talking about the bulb or “Florence” fennel or finocchio in Italian. To this I gasped and raved on as to what a wonderful vegetable it is and how versatile it can be in the kitchen with all kinds of cooking methods and recipes. Fennel is such an amazing plant/vegetable or bulb/spice for there are many parts of the plant that have all different uses.
Fennel pollen, if you come across it is in the form of tiny yellow spores that have a heavy licorice flavour and is ideal for adding to crusts, sauces or seasonings for fish, chicken, seafood’s and or salads and vegetables although you only need a tiny amount. The fronds of fennel bulb or wild fennel can be used in salads, pasta sauces, stir-fry’s or sautéed or as a garnish for fish or chicken and also chopped up and used in stuffing’s, herb butters, pesto’s etc. The spice fennel seed is wonderful crushed and added to curries, pastes, steeped in tea used as a digestive, in desserts or mixed with pork shoulder or mince for wonderful Sicilian inspired sausages or meatballs.
My favorite and more easily adapted into your culinary repertoire is the fennel bulb itself which when sliced thinly can be used in salads, relishes, pasta sauces, marinated in olive oil, lemon juice and seasoned and makes an ideal addition to a salad with sliced oranges, black olives and anchovies. Fennel once sliced or cut does need to be either tossed with lemon juice or if it is not being used straight away needs to be stored in the fridge either rubbed with lemon or in water with a squeeze of lemon juice. Fennel the vegetable goes well with preserved lemon, pork, fish, shell fish, chicken, potatoes, garlic, herbs, artichokes, onions, cream, blue cheeses, apples, pears, citrus. It loves to be roasted, baked, gratinated, pureed, sautéed, boiled, steamed, fried and raw and can be used in sauces, soups, risottos, stuffing’s, bakes, pastas, salads and garnishes.
One of my favorite recipes is dipping fennel in flour and then into a mixture of eggs, loads of grated parmesan, parsley and lemon zest and frying it in hot oil to make tasty fennel fritters. They are delicious hot or cold and make a fantastic antipasto addition, great vegetarian option or an accompaniment to a main meal. This recipe depends on the size of your fennel so use a medium sized fennel if you can find one or whatever you get then just adjust the quantities to suit. Usually you may need to remove one of the outer pieces or stalks as it is often damaged, cut off the base of the fennel, the core is usually soft so there is no need to remove it, unless it seems woody or quite hard. Click here to check out the recipe, enjoy.