A trip to the Dublin Food Co-op at the weekend threw up some lovely surprises – a raw food stall, which I think VK will be very interested in, a comprehensive dried goods section for all your pulse-, legume- and grain-based needs, a baker offering several yeast-free and gluten-free alternatives, and veggie producers selling, amongst other things, one of my all-time favourite vegetables – fennel.
I hadn’t seen any in the local shops – maybe they don’t stock it because there’s little demand for it, or maybe they’re being ultra-strict about seasonality as fennel only really comes into its own about now. Whatever the reason, it’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to cook with fennel, so I greedily popped four bulbs of aniseedy goodness in my basket and skipped off with a big smile on my face. Clearly, I don’t get out enough if this sort of thing counts as exciting.
Bulb number one was eaten straight away – raw and unadulterated. Some people find it too harsh/unpleasant but I’ve always been a savoury girl rather than sweet (no jokes from my family, please) so the pleasure of that refreshing, sharp flavour is something I look forward to and enjoy enormously.
The second one was thrown into a salad for some extra crunch and bite. Numbers three and four went into the following pasta dish, the aniseed overtones baked down into a backnote to complement rather than overpower the other ingredients.
This recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days. He recommends it as a tasty side dish and then, in a throw-away note, mentions that it would make a sexy little pasta. I’ve never used it as the side dish – I can’t get past making this creamy, soothing, very satisfying dinner.
2 fennel bulbs, cut into quarters
A punnet of cherry tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme
A few dots of butter
About 125g of ricotta
A handful of grated parmesan
14 black olives, stoned and sliced
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.
2. Put the fennel quarters in a saucepan, cover with water and simmer for 10 minutes.