A little fennel appeared in my vege box. I know fennel is one of those polarising tastes, a little like coriander, or cilantro for my American friends. It seems you either love it or you hate it. I fall firmly in the I love fennel camp. Raw in salads, roasted, braised, coated in a little Parmesan and breadcrumbs and sauteed, and I reckon I could turn a few haters in to lovers with this fennel ice cream. Not one person has not fallen in love with the subtly fennel infused ice cream, the end result so much greater than the sum of its parts. Revelationary is an understatement, and so far, for me, no ice cream I have had beats this one.
It was back to Ottolenghi for a some new fennel inspiration, yes I certainly seem to be on a little bit of an Ottolenghi phase, or rather another Ottolenghi phase. It is hard not to go back to Plenty, it is just such an inspiring book. From the get go it made it in to the handful of favourite cook books that I turn to again and again as they never fail to inspire and deliver something new and wonderful for the taste buds.
This recipe not only had fennel but another perennial favourite of mine, goat's cheese. Sharp tangy goat's cheese with sweet fennel sounded like an harmonious combination. It didn't disappoint.
Caramelized Fennel and Goat's Cheese, courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty
The master used goat's curd which I didn't have so I substituted with goat's cheese. Regular sugar is also a suitable substitute for the caster sugar. It is also easy enough to adjust the quantities down to serve 2. I just used 1 regular sized fennel bulb.
4 small fennel bulbs
40g unsalted butter
3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 garlic clove, crushed
50g dill, leaves and stalks, roughly chopped
140gs goat's curd cheese, or goat's cheese
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
Salt and pepper
Remove the green fronds from the fennel and set aside. Remove any tough or brown outer layers and slice off a little of the root, not all of it as you need a little to hold the slices together. Cut the bulbs length ways in to 1.5cm / 3/4 inch thick slices.
Melt half the butter with half the olive oil over a high heat in a large frying pan. When the butter starts to foam add a single layer of the sliced fennel. If need be do it in batches. Don't overcrowd the frying pan and leave the fennel alone for a couple of minutes. Resist the urge and do not turn or stir. We are aiming to sear for a flavourful golden brown. After a couple of minutes turn them over, and again leave well alone for 2 minutes. Remove from the frying pan, set aside and do the same with the rest of the fennel, using up the rest of the oil and butter.
In to the frying pan add the sugar, fennel seeds and a good pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Fry for just 30 seconds ans then return all the fennel slices back to the frying pan. Allow then to caramelize for 1-2 minutes so that they are just coated in the sugar and fennel seed mixture. Place the fennel on a plate and allow them to cool.
In a bowl toss the fennel with the garlic and dill. Taste and if need be add more salt and pepper, each to their own with seasoning. Arrange the fennel on a platter and crumble over the goat's cheese. To finish drizzle with a little olive oil, the lemon zest and a garnish of the fennel fronds. Serve at room temperature.