Tuesday, June 05, 2007
F is for Fennel
"There's fennel for you.."
We celebrated our arrival at F with a Feast of Flattery. Fennel was our next vegetable companion and the timing was perfect. In Shakespeare's time, fennel was a symbol of flattery. The bright green, delicate leaves that top the fennel wilt very quickly, supposedly like the attentions of a flatterer. The reason for our feast was a visit by a very special guest, Leo, who is Alex and Freddie's big brother. Now unlike his Dad and Stepmum, Leo has a proper twenty-something social life with all sorts of exciting things going on. So when he comes across London to see us it is a treat and a cause for celebration. Naturally, we want to impress him with a beautiful meal. So we went into overdrive with the Fennel.
First off was Pear, Fennel and Parmesan salad which is a combination of flavours that I have tasted several times before. Note the order of Pear, then Fennel in the recipe title. This is a cloak and dagger recipe. I wasn't kidding myself that Freddie would immediately like the very adult taste of fennel which is a cross between mild aniseed and celery. I was hoping that the taste of pear, which Freddie loves, would wrap itself around the Fennel, softening and sweetening some of that strong anise flavour. There is an added benefit of combining the pear with fennel. When sliced thinly and covered with olive oil and parmesan, they look very similar. This hampers Freddie's ability to pick out the offending veg and avoid eating it. This wasn't so much a recipe, more a defence strategy.
Fennel, Pear and Parmesan
1 ripe pear
Half a bulb of Fennel
2oz of freshly grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Core the pear and thinly slice it lengthways. Cut off the stalk and base of the Fennel and cut in half. Slice thinly lengthways. Mix them together on a plate. Add a splash of olive oil, a twist of ground pepper and the grated Parmesan cheese. Carefully mix it together to serve.
With this recipe you can alter the amount of fennel to pear. With Freddie, I wanted the pear to help lure him into tasting and enjoying the fennel. Yet more flattery. He gave this dish a respectable 7 out of ten.
The Feast of Flattery continued and I think it was working its magic on Leo. He has always been a joy to cook for. He was slightly thrown by the rather bizarre practice of me photographing the food before it is eaten. The children sit in their places, in a near-hysterical state of hunger and I stand on the table in a pair of slippers with my camera, attempting to capture the best angle of each dish. I call for props, bowls of fruit, attractive place mats and demand that piles of homework are removed. In the end there is normally a revolt, led by Chris who pulls me to my senses, takes my hand to help me safely off my kitchen pedestal and we start eating. In years gone by children waited for grace to be said before picking up their forks. In our house, they are waiting for their mother to get off the table. This is the least enjoyable aspect of blogging.
Our second Fennel dish was roasted with emmental cheese. This is simple and a blatant attempt to use the flavour of emmental, much loved by Freddie, to attract him to Fennel. And I am ashamed to admit that it worked. He gave this recipe a confident eight out of ten.
Roasted Fennel with Emmental cheese.
Two fennel bulbs
Two tablespoons olive oil
Four tablespoons finely grated emmental cheese
Salt and pepper to season
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Heat oven to 180.C
Get a baking dish and very lightly oil it. Cut off the stalk and stump of the Fennel and then slice it in half vertically. With each half, slice it into quarters. Put in the baking tray, add the rest of the olive oil, chopped garlic and salt and pepper. Cover the baking tray with a loose foil lid and cook for about 30 minutes. Stir the mixture with a spatula half way through. When the 30 mins is up, take off the foil lid, sprinkle and mix over the emmental cheese and put back in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Check to make sure the cheese doesn't burn. It should be golden brown.
The fennel flattery concluded with Chicken baked with Fennel.