Wednesday 26 March 2008

Recipe: Fennel, Tuscan Style

Normally, I would think of Fennel as something to accompany fish - its delicate liquorice flavour marrying well with the subtle qualities of a perfectly cooked Bass or Bream. In this treatment, however, it takes on a more robust character, and would go well with roast Pork, say, or an old-fashioned flavoursome roast Chicken.

Why 'Tuscan'? I have no idea. I first came across the recipe in the scribblings of an obscure french chef from the fifties, who was unlikely to have known 'Tuscan' from a bull's foot, I should think! The use of cloves is also suspect, and to me suggests a provenance nearer to the Veneto than Tuscany......although, as ever, the appearance of Cloves in the list of ingredients implies a pleasingly early provenance.

This is a dish which can be cooked in advance to the final stage, and then re-heated just before adding the Cream.

For six.

Ingredients: One and half kilos of Fennel; 600g Tomatoes (preferably the larger, vine variety); 250g white Onions; a stem of fresh Thyme; a teaspoon of dried Bayleaf; two tablespoons of fresh, chopped Parsley; 100g of Lardons; 4 tablespoons of Olive Oil; 3 Cloves; Salt & Pepper; two tablespoons of Crème Fraiche.


1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Skin and de-seed the tomatoes (I always do this by cutting crossed lines in the skin with the tip of a sharp knife, then putting them on the end of a fork and immersing them in very hot water for a minute or two; the skins then peel away easily, and you can then cut the tomatoes n half and scoop out and discard the seeds.) Slice the Tomato flesh finely.

3. Finely slice the Fennel and the Onion.

4. In a shallow pan that can subsequently go into the oven - I use a small handless sauté pan - heat three tablespoons of Oil over medium heat, and sauté the Lardons and Onion until they just begin to colour.

5. Add the sliced Fennel and Tomato, mix everything well together, and cook over high heat for a couple of minutes, stirring.

6. Stir in all of the herbs and spice, and season to taste. Pour the remaining Oil over the top, and place in the oven to cook for 45 minutes.

7. Remove the pan from the oven and stir the cream into the vegetables, just enough to warm through. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary, then serve, sprinkled with chopped Parsley.

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