There aren’t many vegetable dishes which make me want to lick the plate. This is one of them. I’ve made it twice in a week, once as a starter, once for lunch and I’m already craving a third instalment.
The original recipe is in Plenty and uses goat’s curd, which even the intrepid Mr Ottolenghi admits is ‘hard to get’ and his suggested replacement is young, fresh goat’s cheese, like Rosary (so a mild, soft and lemony one, not something hard and ripe). I used a generic ‘French goat’s cheese‘ off the Waitrose shelf, nothing fancy, and it worked brilliantly. This is the sort of recipe I want to make all the time: really easy, low on shopping, tastes bloody marvellous. It would be lovely with most simply roasted meats but, if eating it on its own, all you need with it is some decent bread. I can’t recommend it enough.
Caramelised fennel with goat’s cheese (adapted from Plenty)
For 2 (as light lunch/starter)
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
unsalted butter, 20g
olive oil, 1½ tbsp, plus a little extra
caster sugar, 1 tbsp
small garlic clove
finely ground sea salt and black pepper
fennel bulbs, 2
fennel seeds, ½ tsp
fresh dill, 10g
soft, fresh goat’s cheese, 70g
1. Prep the fennel: trim off any leafy fronds (and, if there are any, reserve for garnishing), remove any brown or damaged layers, then slice off the outer layer of the root, trying to keep the whole bulbs intact (I failed at this…). Then slice the bulbs lengthways into slices about 1.5cm thick.
2. Melt half the butter and oil in a frying pan over a high heat until it begins to foam then add a single layer of fennel slices (depending on the size of the pan/fennel, you’ll need to do this in batches). Cook it until the underside has turned a lovely golden colour (a few minutes or so, depending on the heat), then turn the slices and cook the other side in the same way. Once done, remove to a plate and cook the rest of the fennel.
3. Once the fennel has been cooked and removed from the frying pan, add the caster sugar, fennel seeds and lots of salt and pepper and fry for 30 seconds. Return all the fennel to the pan, toss it for a minute or so in the caramelised seeds and sugar (it looks like there is not enough for the fennel slices when you do this, but there is) then remove from the pan again, and leave to cool on a plate.
4. Whilst the fennel is cooling peel and finely chop the garlic, finely chop the dill (stalks and leaves) and zest the lemon. Once the fennel is cool, toss it with the garlic and dill in a salad bowl and either leave it in the bowl or arrange it in a serving dish. Dot with goat’s cheese, sprinkle with lemon zest, garnish with fennel fronds (if you have any; it doesn’t matter if you don’t) and a little more olive oil and serve at room temperature. Plate-licking optional.