“Dear Miss Gingerish, I have a question for you: I really like fennel, but hardly ever eat it because I don’t really know a lot of good recipes with it. Maybe you have some ideas? Thanks! With love, a fan”.
Marise posted this message on my Facebook page a few weeks ago and I have some good news for her: if there is one vegetable that can be called versatile it is fennel!
Fennel seems a bit forgotten in Dutch cuisine, while you can do so much with it: leaves, bulb and seeds are used in the kitchen. Fennel is especially delicious in the summer: it’s light and its aniseed flavour blends perfectly with warm weather.
Buy and preserve fennel
Buy fennel as fresh as possible, making sure the bulb looks fresh and bright white and feels firm. Fennel is available in different shapes and sizes: the thicker version has a sweet taste and the slimmer one tastes a bit like liquorice. After purchase its best to keep the fennel in your refrigerator, wrapped in cling film (max. 1 week). Freezing fennel is also an option: blanch it for 3 minutes before it goes into the freezer. Then the shelf life is about 6 months (depending on your freezer).
Cut off the hard bottom of the bulb and remove the stems and leaf green. Keep the fine green to garnish your dish. Cut the fennel into wedges, slices or quarters. If you eat the fennel raw make sure to cut it as fine as possible, for example using a mandolin.
What can I do with fennel?
You can combine fennel endlessly with many other flavours. It’s delicious with fresh, slightly zingy flavours such as citrus, apple, goat cheese and pomegranate. Fennel also goes well with sweet: think of honey and ripe tomatoes. And to complete the pallet: fennel is delicious with salty flavours like nuts, cheese, capers and samphire.
If you think flavour combinations are endless, just look at the cooking methods: you can cook fennel (10-15 min), stir fry (6-8 min), roasting or grilling (6-8 min), steaming (20 -25 min), braise (8-10 min) and of course eat it raw.
Of course I don’t want to make it even more difficult for Marise with all those different options, so what do you think of the following recipe ideas?
- Make a quick and easy soup: roast fennel, carrot, onion and garlic in olive oil in the oven until cooked. Place the roasted vegetables in a pan, add broth and let boil for 15 minutes. Puree the soup and serve with a dash of cream and fennel green
- Combine fennel slices with orange, olives, parsley, fennel green and olive oil. Add white fish and you have a complete meal
- Fast weekday meal: pasta with baked fennel and lemon-herb sauce. Cook fennel quarters 7 min, along with the pasta. Meanwhile, make the sauce: melt butter and add Italian herbs, spring onions, cream and lemon juice. After cooking bake the fennel pieces gently in butter with some lemon juice. Stir in the sauce through the pasta with Parmesan and serve with the baked fennel
- Make a salad of roasted beets, raw fennel, fennel green, rhubarb, almonds and soft goat cheese. Serve with a dressing of tarragon vinegar, oil and honey
- Another great salad idea: finely chopped fennel, radicchio and endive with walnuts, Parmesan and parsley. With a dressing of red wine vinegar and walnut oil you have a wonderful starter or side dish
- BBQ night? Fennel, apple and celery make a perfect trio. Fresh and summery with a dressing of yogurt, fennel green and chives
- Vegetable stew: fry fennel, onion, pepper and garlic. Add a can of diced tomatoes, olives and fresh herbs and let simmer. Variation #1: add corn and finish with feta. Variation #2: add pieces of cod to the stew
- Stuff fennel leaves with chopped fennel, orange and spicy cheese
- Make a soup with lentils: fry fennel, onion and potato, add broth and simmer until the vegetables are tender. Puree, add lentils and finish with a little cream and fennel greens
- Cooling drink on a hot day: add slices of fennel and a bag of black tea to boiling water. Remove the tea bag, let cool down and serve ice cold with ice cubes and a little honey
- Great with meat and potatoes: roast fennel quarters with cherry tomatoes and olive oil for about an hour in the oven at 160 degrees
You see: there are endless possibilities to use fennel in your kitchen! I hope I’ve been able to inspire Marise to cook with this versatile vegetable more often. Will you let me know what recipe(s) you’ve made Marise?