Raw, braised or roasted, fennel is flavoursome and versatile. Meet your new best friend! Normally fennel tastes like a cross between celery, cabbage, and licorice. Roasting, however, brings out an entirely new flavor – as if pine nuts decided to join the party. As a young adult I could never get the hang of fennel and didn’t like the taste very much, but decided to challenge myself about a year ago when I saw these absolutly fabulous bulbs on the Woolies shelf. I bought just one for the amazing price of just R5.99. Took it home and the experimentation started. My very first attempt was oven roasted fennel with olive oil, balamic vinegar, salt & pepper and garlic. Initially I was less enthusiatic about it, but as I continue to use it, the taste slowly grew on me and today I am hooked and view the humble fennel bulb as my Best Food Find for 2011 and would love to share it with you. See also under recipes my oven roasted fennel and two other recipes using fennel.
Fresh and baby fennel
Also called Florence fennel, has a distinctive licorice flavour and sweet aroma. Bulbs can be baked or eaten raw, and the leaves chopped and used in salads, dressings and marinades.
Fennel seeds and ground fennel
These dried spices have a warm, aniseed flavour that intensifies with cooking.
Remove the tough outer layers from bulbs. Remove stalks and fronds, reserving fronds for decoration and dips. Slice 1cm from the base. Halve and rinse bulbs to remove trapped dirt. Fennel store well in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Fresh fennel is a good source of fibre, vitamin C, folate, potassium, manganese and beta-carotene as well as phytochemicals and flavonoids. In some countries fennel seeds are chewed to stimulate digestion and freshen the breath. Fennel also relieves digestive problems, act as a duiretic and is known to relief spasm caused by inflamation. So truly one of the wonder foods we have to eat more of.
Tips for Preparing Fennel
The three different parts of fennel—the base, stalks and leaves—can all be used in cooking. Cut the stalks away from the bulb at the place where they meet. If you are not going to be using the intact bulb in a recipe, then first cut it in half, remove the base, and then rinse it with water before proceeding to cut it further. Fennel can be cut in a variety of sizes and shapes, depending upon the recipe and your personal preference. The best way to slice it is to do so vertically through the bulb. If your recipe requires chunked, diced or julienned fennel, it is best to first remove the harder core that resides in the center before cutting it. The stalks of the fennel can be used for soups, stocks and stews, while the leaves can be used as an herb seasoning.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- Healthy sautéed fennel and onions make a wonderful side dish.
- Combine sliced fennel with avocados, and oranges for a delightful salad.
- Braised fennel is a wonderful complement to scallops.
- Next time you are looking for a new way to adorn your sandwiches, consider adding sliced fennel in addition to the traditional toppings of lettuce and tomato.
- Top thinly sliced fennel with plain yogurt and mint leaves.
- Fennel is a match made in Heaven when served with salmon.