from one generation to the next
I’m not very fond of fennel bulb in salads despite my love of aniseed flavours, so when I see the elegant white bulbs with their green feathery flag tops piled high at the Farmer’s Market stalls, all I can think of cooking is a rich creamy gratin.
Last winter I shared by potato and fennel gratin recipe with you, baked and served as an elegant stack. This alternative method, minus the potatoes, is Italian in origin, an amalgamation and refinement of the many recipes I have used for fennel gratin.
I prefer a gratin that had cooked for a long time, slowly, with a creamy sauce to bathe the fennel making it melt in the mouth soft and creating an unctuous aniseed tinged sauce.
A simple salmon fillet and a salad of zucchini ribbons was the perfect counterpoint to this rich vegetable dish.
Fish and fennel are a wonderful flavour combination.
3 medium bulbs of fennel
150 mls cream (I use lactose free)
150 mls milk ( I use lactose free low fat)
2 teaspoons plain flour (I used GF)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
Remove the tough outer leaves from the fennel bulbs then cut each bulb into quarters.
Put the fennel into a saucepan, cover with cold water, then bring the pot to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the fennel until it is quite floppy.
Drain the fennel gently squeezing each quarter to remove excess water.
Lightly butter an oven proof dish that will contain the fennel in one layer.
Arrange the fennel in the dish, then sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the top.
In a small bowl mix the flour to a thin slurry with the milk, then add the cream and season to taste with a shavings of nutmeg and freshly ground black pepper.
Pour the cream over the fennel, it should be completely submerged. Add a little extra if not.
Bake the fennel at 160C for 1 hour until golden brown and creamy.
I was delayed a little serving my fennel gratin. It was none the worse for having baked for an extra 30 minutes at 140C.