In 1824, Thomas Appleton, the American consul in Florence sent seeds of fennel back to America describing it as “…beyond every other vegetable, delicious…” Finocchio, Florence or bulb fennel is a favourite of Italian cooks and if looking for ways to use this vegetable look towards this cuisine. With its mild anise flavour this versatile vegetable can be finely sliced for salads, but is also great braised, sautéed and added to soups and casseroles. It has a particularly affinity to fish, pork, feta and olives.
Availability: The Chef’s Garden @ Epicurean usually has fennel available year round, but depending on the season there may be times when it is in short supply or unavailable. Please check with us before relaying on it for your menu.
Goes with: bacon: chicken; fish; lemons; mushrooms; olives; oranges; pork; potatoes; radicchio; rocket; and tomatoes.
SELECTING, STORING, PREPARING & USING
Selecting: Small to medium sized bulbs are the most tender. But no matter the size, bulbs should be white or pale green with no brown patches or blemishes and feel heavy for their size. The feathery tops should be bright green in colour and look fresh without any yellowing. If you choose bulbs with some tops still on you can use them for garnishing.
Preparing: To prepare fennel, cut off the tops, remove any discoloured and damaged outer layers. Reserve any feathery fronds to garnish your dish.
For a salad, cut the bulb in half, lengthwise, remove the core, then cut crossways into thin slices.
The easiest way to remove the core is after cutting the bulb in half, simply cut a V-shaped wedge around the core and discard.
There are times when you do not need to remove the core for example if you want slices or wedges to hold together during cook – be guided by the instructions in your recipe.
Storing: Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and use within a few days.
Using: The versatility of fennel means that most cooking methods can be used, try boiling, steaming, roasting, bake, braising and stewing as well as eating raw.
Roasted Fennel Slices or Wedges: Preheat oven to 240°C. Cut fennel bulb in half lengthwise, but do not remove the core. Cut halves into quarters, then into wedges alternatively cut, lengthwise, into 1cm thick slices. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add fennel wedges or slices bring back to the boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain. Pour a little olive oil into a roasting pan, add fennel wedges or slices drizzle with a little more oil and roast for 20-25 minutes or until fennel caramelises and is very tender. Delicious served at room temperature as part of an antipasto platter or hot with grilled fish or pork chops.