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21st May 2012
Fabulously Fennel
Fabulous Fennel. Closeup.

Finally I found some fabulous fennel fare!
As faithful followers of fashion will know I've been trying to find a robust fennel dish for years now, braising with vodka, baking with breadcrumbs, grilling with cheese, always slightly disappointed by how watery and underwhelming the dish turned out to be. But not any more - thanks to the Rebel Cook all my fennel failures are forsworn. Now I have a braised fennel dish to be proud of.

I came across the book in one of my many, many trips to the Starbucks in what used to be Waterstones near my work. Well nearish my work - but that's a whole other story. Not that I willingly shop at Starbucks you understand, but there are no Police Box coffee bars or other quality outlets anywhere nearish my work.
And they do that Christmas eggnog thing. Hmmmmmmmm eggnog.

So anyway, this cookbook on the bargain books table caught my eye and ended up in my collection. It's got some very innovative recipes in it (fennel and anchovies!), but this is the first one I've got around to trying. Like many of my recipe books the pleasure is more in the owning than the using. Which is slightly sad really.
Must try harder.

Today's dinner turned into a surprisingly nice ad-hoc meal - I also tried out a couple of Nigella Lawson's summery recipes: a gently pleasing baked ricotta with a slightly more aggressive grilled chicory.
Completely vegetarian too as requested by Flora who is apparently meatbound after her viking voyage to the Shetland Isles. Except for the anchovies of course.
Not in Flora. In the braised fennel.
So not completely vegetarian at all then.

What's that you say?
Actually we aren't attending an Alliteration Day activity after all? Arse!

Baked Ricotta
starter main veg
Ricotta baked with beaten egg whites.
Light and fluffy this is really quite nice - I threw in the chopped fronds of my fennel bulb too, and I'm sure you could use whatever herbs you fancy.
Don't be too timorous with the salt - you can probably use half a teaspoon or more.

Nigella reckons this will feed 6 people - maybe as a lunch-time snack it will. For dinner it will feed 4. If they're not too hungry.

I already googled Springform Tin for you :)

Serves 4

Ingredients
Method
Pre-heat the oven to 180/gas mark 4.
Mix the ricotta with the beaten egg whites and add most of the chopped thyme, the lemon zest and generous salt and pepper.
Brush a 20cm Springform tin with oil, and pour in the ricotta mixture then drizzle with olive oil and scatter a little more chopped thyme over the top. Don't be alarmed at how shallow this is; it is not intended to be other than a slim disc.
Sit on a baking sheet it will leak oil for one thing and cook in the oven for about 30 minutes. The baked ricotta will rise a little and set dry on top, but will not turn a golden colour like a cake.
It seems to be ready when it feels firm but springy to the touch. A touch of brown at the edges is as cooked as you want it to get.
Let the tin cool a little before springing open, and removing to a plate. Leave to cool a little longer, then cut into wedges and eat, still warm, with a salad or grilled radicchio.
Definitely summery, light and gentle on the palate.

Grilled Radicchio
starter side veg vegan
Seeing as I couldn't find any radicchio, and seeing as how it's a variety of chicory, I used chicory.
Seeing as how chicory is a lot slimmer I just cut them lengthways into three slices each held together at the stem end.

Serves 4

Ingredients
Method
Preheat the grill. If your grill is as poxy as mine you might need to leave it on overnight!
Mix the olive oil and thyme in a shallow bowl, and then wipe the radicchio slices in the herby oil before grilling them for a few minutes, turning them as necessary, until slightly wilted and golden at the edges.
Add a squeeze of lemon at the end before serving. They go well with baked ricotta.
Pleasant (particularly the smell of toasting thyme), but still a touch bitter. Partly that might have been due to my using chicory rather than radicchio. I think brushing with a full-on thyme vinaigrette might take more of the edge off.

Braised Fennel
Fennel braised in garlic, anchovies and maple syrup with orange zest.
side
An odd but inspired collection of flavours this really is fabulous fennel. The orange zest is the perfect finish, but watch you don't overdo it.
Simon Rimmer seems to reckon this will feed 6, but I beg to differ!

Serves 4

Ingredients
Method
Halve the fennel bulbs or quarter them if they're large and cook in acidulated, if you like salted boiling water for about 8 minutes until soft and easily pierced with a knife.
Drain, plunge into cold water and set aside. If the pieces are still quite large, cut them in half again.

In a pan which will just fit the fennel pieces heat the olive oil and fry the chilli flakes, garlic and and then the anchovies until the anchovies are melting. Add the maple syrup and stir well. Next add the fennel and coat well with the sauce.

Cook for about 5 minutes, then stir in the zest at the last minute and serve.
Such fabulous fennel!

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