Friday 10 September 2010

Recipe: Braised Fennel

More of a technique than a specific recipe, this method of cooking fennel works just as well with celery, or swiss chard stalks or leeks...or, in fact, with any of the green vegetables that could be considered 'fibrous'.
I came across the recipe a couple of years ago, buried deep in the pages of one of Anna del Conte's works. I forget which one, and equally I forget now who she quoted as her source (as I'm sure she did, generally being extremely scrupulous about provenance). Vastly superior to simple sauté or baking, the end result from this method is silky and luxurious, with the vegetable meltingly soft, in a sauce which combines all the best elements of the cooking medium and of the vegetable juices mixed in.
It can also be cooked entirely in advance and gently reheated in a warm oven, under foil.

For four:

Ingredients: 2 medium Fennel bulbs, trimmed; 1 oz Butter; 1 tsp Salt; 2 cups Stock (Duck, Chicken, Veal...anything, really, as long as it has flavour).


1. Melt the Butter in a pan which has a lid and is large enough subsequently to hold the Fennel.

2. Cut each Fennel into 4 lengthwise and add them to the pan; turn the pieces so that they are covered in melted Butter. Sprinkle with Salt, and cover the pan; cook gently for about five minutes.

3. Add the Stock to the pan, raising the heat underneath so that the Stock starts to bubble, then lower the heat again to a low simmer.

4. Cook, partially covered for about half an hour, until the liquid has reduced to a couple of tablespoons or so of thick sauce. Adjust seasoning as necessary, and serve.