Crab and Fennel Linguini

I always think of fennel as a very early glimpse of Spring. Although it can be a winter veg, its fresh, vibrant green colour always makes me think of sunnier days. Which is why I always think this recipe makes such a perfect Christmas treat. Really good crabmeat isn’t cheap but you don’t need a huge amount to make this really delicious and luxurious, simple dish and it is a whole lot cheaper than having it in a restaurant.

Crab and Fennel Linguini

Serves 2

300g dried linguine, or fresh pasta dough equivalent

300g white crabmeat

1 bulb of fennel

1 lemon

1 fresh red chilli

Extra extra virgin olive oil

1 handful of herby fennel tops or fresh baby basil leaves or dill

Place the white crabmeat in a large bowl and add the zest and juice from the lemon. Remove the seeds from the chilli, finely chop and add. Trim the base of the bulb and remove the outside layer if it’s got any blemishes, then, using the coarse side of a box grater, grate the bulb into the bowl with the crab. Add a couple of tablespoons of really good, extra virgin olive oil, mix well and season to taste.

Put a large pan of salted water onto boil for the pasta. Cook according to packet instructions. Finely chop any fennel fronds, basil leaves or dill. Drain the pasta, reserving a cupful of cooking water, then toss the pasta through the sauce, adding half the picked herbs and loosening with a splash of reserved water, if needed. Divide between four warm bowls, sprinkle over the remaining herbs.

Bagna Caulda with Winter Vegetables

This is a really delicious way of using up all sorts of winter vegetables. You can even use lightly blanched vegetables such as bitter greens but I like it most with a huge selection of raw winter veg. Bagna Caulda, literally meaning “hot bath”, is a warm garlic and anchovy mayonnaise which you dip your vegetables into, a bit like a fondue. Originally from Piedmont in Italy, it is traditionally eaten at Christmas and New Year. I real Winter salad!

 

Winter Vegetables

Really the veg is up to you but I used a combination of

a few young carrots , peeled and finely sliced

sweet baby peppers

a few small raw beetroots , peeled and finely sliced

a few sticks celery , trimmed and thinly sliced, yellow leaves reserved

½ small Romanesco or white cauliflower , broken into florets

1 bulb fennel , trimmed and finely sliced, herby tops reserved

1 bunch radishes , trimmed and washed

½ celeriac , peeled and finely sliced

 

Bagna Cauda

6 cloves garlic, peeled

300 ml milk

10 anchovy fillets in oil

180 ml extra virgin olive oil , plus extra for drizzling

2-3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

To make your sauce, put the garlic cloves, milk and anchovies into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer slowly for 10 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and tender, keeping a close eye on the pan to make sure the milk doesn’t boil over. Don’t worry if it spits and looks a little lumpy – simply remove from the heat and whiz the sauce up with a hand blender. Gently blend in the extra virgin olive oil and the vinegar a little at a time – you’re in control of the consistency at this point. If you like it thick, like mayonnaise, keep blending. Now taste it and adjust the seasoning. Make sure there’s enough acidity from the vinegar to act like a dressing. It should be an incredible, pungent warm sauce.

There are two ways you can serve this – with both you need the sauce to be warm. Either pour the sauce into a bowl and place this on a plate, with the veg arranged around the bowl, or serve the veg in a big bowl and drizzle the sauce over the top. Sprinkle over the reserved herby fennel tops and celery leaves and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Braised Fennel and Chicken Breast, Thyme & Cream

I have been struggling with new fennel recipes recently but I am particularly pleased with this new concoction of Braised Fennel and Chicken Breast, Thyme & Cream.

 

Braised Fennel and Chicken Breast, Thyme & Cream

Serves 2

2 chicken breasts

2 heads fennel

2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped

Small bunch thyme, tied into a bundle with a piece of string

1 tsp. ground fennel seeds

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

150ml white wine

150mls double cream

Season the chicken on both sides. In a heavy bottomed pan, brown the chicken breasts until golden brown on both sides. Remove any stalks and tough outer leaves from the fennel. Cut in half through the root and then into wedges. Remove the chicken to a plate and add the fennel. Season and cook slowly until golden brown all over. Add more oil if necessary. Add the fennel seeds, the garlic and thyme. Cook for a minute more and then add the wine and bring to the boil. Reduce for a minute or so. Add the cream and the chicken back to the pan with any juices. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, turning the chicken regularly, until it is cooked to your liking. The juices should run clear. Remove the chicken and reduce the sauce until the right consistency. Squeeze the juices from the thyme bundle. Check the seasoning and serve poured over the chicken. Serve with boiled new potatoes.

Spicy Fennel, Sausage, Tomato Pasta

I hate to admit it but we eat rather a lot of sausages in our family. They are cheap and please everyone, which is always a bonus. I serve them up alongside all manner of vegetables and it is a great use up of whatever veg I have in the fridge, but I was I was thrilled to come up with this new way of serving them up and still managing to please the family.

Spicy Fennel, Sausage, Tomato Pasta

Serves 2

Extra virgin olive oil

2 heads fennel, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

8 good quality sausages or about 400g sausage meat

100mls white wine

1 tin plum tomatoes

Pinch chilli flakes

200g pasta, I used Conchiglie

Freshy grated Parmesan

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy bottomed saucepan gently fry the fennel with some olive oil. When beginning to colour, add the sausage meat. Squeeze it from the casings and break it up really well with a wooden spoon. You don’t want any large lumps. Turn up the heat and fry really well. It is nice if it begins to brown. Add the wine and use it to deglaze the pan. Scape the bottom to release any stuck on sausage. Add a pinch of chilli flakes and the tin of tomatoes. Rinse the tin out with a little water and add that too. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and let the sauce gently bubble away whilst you cook your pasta. Check seasoning before serving. Top with Parmesan.

Fennel, Potato and Parmesan Gratin

Anyone who knows my cooking will know that I make quite a lot of gratins. I love the idea for adding a hidden layer for vegetables, be it leeks and mushrooms, chard, kale, cavalo nero or some other leafy greens or cabbage and bacon. I like to use a variety of different root vegetables too and I have experimented with mushroom and leek, beetroot, parsnip, sweet potato, jerusalem artichoke and kohl rabi to name but a few. But this Potato and Fennel Gratin was a new idea and although it sounds plain, it is one of those dishes which somehow manages to taste more than the sum of its parts. It is somehow deeply satisfying and I implore you to give it a go.

Fennel, Potato and Parmesan Gratin

750g potatoes, peeled

500g trimmed fennel

750mls double cream

250mls milk

3 garlic cloves

Small bunch of thyme

Pinch chilli flakes

50g freshly grated parmesan

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the cream, milk, garlic cloves, a pinch of chilli flakes and the bunch of thyme in a heavy bottomed saucepan and infuse over a low heat for as long as you have got. Check that it does not boil over, or catch as it reduces. Preheat the oven to 170C. Meanwhile thinly slice the potatoes and the fennel. A mandolin or a food processor is good for this. In a large gratin dish, put a layer of half of the potato, top with the fennel and then finish with the rest of the potato slices. Season the cream well with salt and pepper. Remember it has to season all the potatoes and fennel as well so it should be quite salty. Pour the cream mixture through a sieve over the potatoes. Scrape the sieve to make sure that you squeeze though all the garlic and the juices from the thyme. Press down the potato so that the cream mixture comes up to the top of the top layer of potato. If not, top up with a little milk. Scatter over the parmesan. Cover with tin foil and cook slowly in the oven for about 1 – 1 ½  hours until a blunt knife inserts easily all the way through. Remove the tin foil and allow the parmesan to brown to your liking. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Save

Grilled Squid with Fennel and Saffron Risotto

I’ve been thinking about making Fennel Risotto for quite a while now, but I felt it needed something just a little bit more to make it special. I thought of mixing in some crab, which would have been delicious but when I saw some nice fat tubes of squid for sale in the fishmongers, I knew that would be the perfect combination. Usually I do squid with Risotto Nero, blackened with the ink from the squid, but I think this makes a nice, more summery variation.

Grilled Squid with Fennel and Saffron Risotto

Serves 2

4 fat tubes of squid

100g butter

2 bulbs of fennel

200g risotto rice

200mls white wine

1 litre hot stock (can use good quality stock cubes such as kello)

1 tsp ground fennel seeds

Pinch saffron

Pinch chilli flakes

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove any tough outside leaves or stalks from the fennel. Save any fronds for a garnish. Cut the fennel in half and slice thinly. Melt ¾  the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, add the fennel and a good pinch of salt and gently fry without colour until softened for about 10 minutes.  Add the rice and cook for a minute more and then add the wine. Keep stirring. It is banging the grains of rice together which releases the starch which makes your risotto creamy. Add the fennel to the hot stock and gradually start to add the stock a ladleful at a time. When the liquid has just about been absorbed, add another ladleful of stock. Keep cooking like this for 20-25 mins until the rice is chewy but not chalky. Add the fennel seeds and chilli, plenty of freshly ground black pepper and check for seasoning. Add the rest of the butter but do not stir, and leave to sit covered for a minute or two. Heat a griddle or BBQ until smoking hot. Cut through one side of the squid and open out flat. Season and brush with olive oil. Grill first on one side and then the other. The squid should curl up when cooked. Give the risotto a final stir and serve with the squid and any chopped fennel fronds you may have.

Fennel & Cannellini Bean Gratin

This recipe is a sort of Cassoulet without the meat. It is surprising that it really is a meal in itself and that the fennel manages to replace the customary addition of bacon, duck and sausages so well. If, however you are the sort of person who just cannot go without meat, just serve up some sausages alongside. Other wish, a nice crisp salad will do.

Fennel & Cannellini Bean Gratin

1 lemon

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

2 fennel bulbs

400g tin cannellini beans

Olive oil

1 tin plum tomatoes

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp ground fennel

50g breadcrumbs

25g Parmesan

Zest and juice the lemon. Peel and slice the onion. Trim the fennel bulbs, removing any tough outer layers. Slice them in half, lengthways. Remove the tough root with a v-shaped cut and thinly slice. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and gently fry the onion and fennel for 10 minutes until starting to soften. Allow them to take on some colour but add a dash of water if they look like they might burn. While the fennel cooks, peel and finely chop 2 garlic cloves. Add the garlic to the pan of fennel. Cook gently for a further 2 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, rinse out the tin with a little water and add that two and break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add the ground fennel and oregano. Bring to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes on a low heat until the sauce thickens. Taste and adjust the seasoning if you feel it needs it. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Tip the fennel and tomato mixture into a gratin dish. Mix the breadcrumbs with the cheese and the lemon zest. Cover the gratin with an even layer of the breadcrumb mix. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs have turned golden and the sauce is bubbling.

Roast Carrot, Shaved Fennel, Giant Cous Cous, Chermoula and Feta Salad

Finally this week, a recipe to pay homage to all those lovely bunched carrots I’ve been getting in my box for the last few weeks and there is no better way of cooking them than giving them a good scrub, tossing in olive oil and roasting them until just beginning to caramelise in the oven. They are lovely served in a salad and I find the combination with cumin seeds and feta particularly good.

The mix of giant cous cous (Mograbiah) and Chermoula is one that I came across years ago. Chermoula is a fish marinade from Morocco and although the recipe below is far more than you will need for this salad, it is easily used up as a marinade or a dressing.

I then added the shaved fennel to add texture to the salad but you could use Rocket of another sturdy salad leaf instead. I finally added some crumbled feta and the fronds from the fennel chopped scattered on top and I have to say it looked and tasted pretty good.

Roast Carrot, Shaved Fennel, Giant Cous Cous, Chermoula and Feta Salad 1

Roast Carrot, Shaved Fennel, Giant Cous Cous, Chermoula and Feta Salad

Serves 2

1 bunch of carrots

Cumin seeds

1 head fennel, very thinly sliced on a mandolin, save the fronds

100g giant cous cous

3 tablespoons Chermoula (see below)

Extra virgin olive oil

Juice ½ a lemon

100g feta

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Scrub the carrots. A scouring pad is quite good for this. Top and tail and cut in half or quarters lengthways, depending on size. Toss in olive oil. Salt, pepper and cumin seeds and scatter on a roasting tray. Roast in the oven until tender and caramelised. (About 25 minutes) Cover the cous cous with plenty of cold water in a saucepan. Add a pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until the cous cous is completely tender. Drain. When cool, dress with the Chermoula to taste. Make another dressing of lemon juice and olive oil with a pinch of salt. Use this to dress the fennel. Arange the fennel on a large plate. Scatter over the cous cous and then top with the carrots. Finally crumble over the feta and any fennel fronds you may have.

028

Chermoula

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

¾ cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

½ teaspoon sweet or spicy Paprika

½ teaspoon Cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon Ground Cumin

1 large bunch of Coriander leaves

½ bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves

1-2 small salted lemons, seeds removed

½ teaspoon Ras el Hanout (optional)

1-2 tsp salt or to taste

Whiz up all ingredients in a liquidiser or with a hand-held blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

Roasted Carrots with Cumin Seeds

Braised Fennel with Parmesan

I nicked this recipe off Simon Hopkinson. Being one of my favourite chefs, I know his recipes are always going to be good and I am always looking for new ways of using fennel. I have been cooking this Braised Fennel at SuperClubs and Riverford Lunches for years now and it never fails to please fennel lovers.

Braised Fennel with Parmesan

Braised Fennel with Parmesan

Adapted from Simon Hopkinson. As I said, I am not a fan of Pastis so I miss that out and use extra Vermouth instead, but if you do not have any, white wine will work well instead. Delicious served on it’s own or alongside some roast lamb.  

750g/1½lb fennel bulbs, trimmed, halved, trimmings reserved

50g/1¾oz butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tbsp dry vermouth or white wine

Splash Pastis (optional, alternatively add a couple of tbsp. more dry vermouth)

60g/2oz Parmesan (or similar vegetarian hard cheese), grated, plus extra for serving

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.

Melt the butter in a casserole dish over a low heat. Place the fennel into the butter cut-side down, and scatter around the trimmings. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and increase the heat. Add the vermouth, Pastis or white wine. Cover with a sheet of foil loosely pressed down on the vegetables, and put the lid on top. Place into the oven to cook for 30 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and turn over the fennel. Return to the oven and cook for a further 30 minutes, or until very tender when poked with a small, sharp knife. Preheat the grill to high. Remove the fennel from the dish. Place in a warmed shallow oven-proof dish cut-side up, cover with foil and place in the oven while you make the sauce. Pour the trimmings and cooking juices through a fine sieve suspended over a small pan. Warm through and add 45g/1½oz of the Parmesan. Blend with a hand blender until smooth and creamy (about the consistency of pouring cream). Pour the mixture over the fennel and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Place under the grill and cook until the surface is pale golden-brown and slightly bubbling around the edges.

Fennel 1

Sausages Stew with Braised Fennel and Lemony Potatoes

I am always looking for new things to do with fennel. This next recipe is based on a recipe which we saw on Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes. It was called Fennel Sausages with Lemon Potatoes. It comes from Puglia, in Italy and it sounded delicious. The fennel is excellent at cutting the fattiness of the sausages and lemon gives a delicious clean fragrance. I always find it really difficult to find good Italian sausages. You can get them at Vallebona which is always worth a trip, but only opens Saturdays and I always seem to forget. However, I do drive down Leopold Road every day and have discovered that Roberts & Edwards do their own Italian Sausage.  It is not terribly authentic and heavier on the chilli, than the fennel, by quite delicious all the same. If I am using these sausages I add a couple of heads of fennel and a teaspoon of fennel seeds to the recipe to compensate for flavour. I also add a little more liquid than Rick, as I quite like the stew-like consistence that it results in. I think of it as a “Summer Stew.” I have amended his recipe but you can find the original in  Mediterranean Escapes or even watch it online.

Sausages Stew with Braised Fennel and Lemony Potatoes 2

Finally, I usually throw in a few chipolatas from my daughter who prefers a plainer sausage, and this simple dish then happily pleases the whole family and is ready in no time at all.

Sausages Stew with Braised Fennel and Lemony Potatoes

Sausages Stew with Braised Fennel and Lemony Potatoes

Serves 4

The perfect sausages for this dish are those from specialist Italian or Continental delicatessens, Luganega, which come in one long length

Based on a recipe by Rick Stein From Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes

450g/1lb luganega sausages (available from specialist Italian or Continental grocers), or other nice meaty pork chipolatas

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 heads of fennel, trimmed and each cut into 6 or 8 wedges through the root.

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

750g/1½lb small waxy potatoes, peeled and each cut into quarters

½ lemon, pared zest and juice only

4 fresh bay leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Twist the sausages into 7.5cm/3in lengths and separate them into individual sausages.

Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a 26cm/10in shallow flameproof casserole dish. Add the sausages and fry until nicely browned all over. Lift them onto a plate and set aside.

Add the fennel, onion, garlic and another tablespoon of oil to the casserole dish and fry until soft and lightly golden. Stir in the potatoes, lemon zest and juice, bay leaves, ½ teaspoon salt and ten turns of the black pepper mill. Top with the sausages and add enough water to cover the potatoes and fennel

Cover tightly with the lid and bake for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are tender. You can also do this on the stove top if you like. Adjust seasoning before serving.

fennel