Potato, Fennel and Radicchio salad

This would be a constant favourite if not for the fact that our local waitrose doesn’t stock radicchio (shock! horror!) and it appears only sporadically on the North End road market stalls. The salad has wonderful flavours and texture, we usually add bacon to it as we find that very few things cannot be improved by addition of bacon. The secret to balancing the bitterness of radicchio and strong flavour of fennel is sweetness of orange juice in the dressing.

The recipe is straight from Tangerine Dream Cafe book of recipes. This is a casual eating place in one of my favourite summer hang outs – the Chelsea Physic Garden in Swan Walk.

Serves 4

500g salad new potatoes
1 fennel head
1 radicchio head
40g parsley
15 olives (optional)

Dressing
juice of 1 orange
60ml white wine vinegar
90ml olive oil

Boil the salad potatoes to just cooked – we use baby Jersey Royals in season, but Cornish Mids or Charlottes also work well. Drain and place in a bowl. Liberally sprinkle with olive oil and add salt.

Thinly slice the fennel and place on top. Halve the radicchio and de-core, tearing the remaining leaves into large uneven pieces. Scatter on top together with the olives and lightly toss the salad to just reveal the potatoes. Whisk the dressing ingredients together, add to the salad and serve.

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Chicken with fennel and thyme

A brilliantly simple chicken recipe. Fennel and thyme make for a deliciously refreshing change and the result is rather Italian.

Serves 6
Ready in about 40 minutes

Ingredients
4 tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
20g bunch fresh thyme, leaves picked
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
200g smoked lardons or pancetta pieces
2 fennel bulbs, each cut into 12 wedges
1 red onion, sliced into 12 wedges
300ml dry white wine

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil into a non-stick roasting tin. Add the garlic, thyme, 1 tablespoon sea salt and 2 teaspoons ground black pepper and mix. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Scatter with the lardons or pancetta, add the fennel and onion, and drizzle with the remaining oil. Cook for 15 minutes, then increase the oven temperature to 230°C/fan210°C/gas 8.

2. Pour the wine into the tin and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the chicken is golden and the vegetables tender. Serve with the Lemon-dressed tagliatelle.

Nutritional Information per serving:
371kcals
17.7g fat (5g saturated)
41.6g protein
3g carbs
2.2g sugar
1.9g salt

Quick lamb, orange and fennel stew

This recipe works for a light, one-pot family supper. I made it last Friday for six people, because I didn’t want to spend much time in the kitchen in the run up to dinner. I tried to do it in two stages, adding potatoes later. Though the stew was tasty, I suspect it would have been better if I hadn’t done that – the fennel might have stayed crunchier. Will make again, as this is an interesting variety of lamb stew – no brown flavour and orange and fennel combination produce amazingly subtle flavours for a stew! I am not sure this is anywhere near Morrocan cuisine but people commented on the combination as being typical for it.

Ingredients:
Serves 4, Ready in 45 minutes

600g cubed lamb (as the number of guests increased, I added about as much of pork shoulder diced. Wasn’t noticeable in all the lamb juicy goodness.)
2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
Grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
300ml fresh chicken stock, hot
500g baby new potatoes (I didn’t have any new ones, so chopped bigger potatoes too big chunks at first, had to halve them as they have to cook in the stew)
1 large fennel bulb, roughly chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

  1. In a bowl, coat the lamb in the seasoned flour. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add the lamb, in batches, and brown for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

    Tip: Lamb is young and always tender, which is why this stew can be cooked so quickly. Use ready-cubed lamb or cut up your own choice of cut – for lean meat, choose leg; if you like it slightly fattier, try neck fillet.

  2. Add the onion, garlic and fennel seeds to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden.
  3. Stir in the orange zest and juice, the chicken stock, potatoes, fennel and browned lamb. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  4. Stir in the vinegar and parsley and adjust the seasoning to taste. Serve in warmed bowls with steamed spinach or spring greens. I had to add quite a bit of salt at the end as I am scared of over-salting, but the meat and potatoes can take quite a bit of salt to get the flavours stand out as they should.

Note: Nutritional Information per serving:
422kcals, 19g fat (6.3g saturated), 37.2g protein, 28.9g carbs, 7.3g sugar
Ingredients

Pasta with fennel and talleggio

This was one of the most experimental dishes I ever tried, without a recipe, just putting things together as they were found in the fridge and cupboard. So here it goes. It tasted delicious, though I am pretty sure this is not exactly orthodox italian.

Ingredients:
Flat spaghetti for 2 people
2-3 cubes taleggio chopped
creme fraiche
1 fennel sliced thinly
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
splash of pasta water
4 large button mushrooms sliced – big shrooms
generous pinch of herbes de provance
1/2 bottle of trifolati in oil

Boil spaghetti as per packet instructions and set aside. Retain some of the pasta water. In wok, fry fennel and garlic in oil from trifolati together with the herbs. Add trifolati and button mushrooms. Add pasta with splosh of pasta water. Add cheese, creme fraiche until gooey, stir. Season and serve.

Dry rich white wine goes well with this, cutting through the richness of taleggio.

Cream of fennel soup

This, together with the white bean & smoked bacon soup, has to be my favourite. Another worthwhile recipe from The Sunday Times magazine. It’s sophisticated, smooth with complex flavours, the result of combination of fennel, Pernod and nutmeg.

Serves 6
75g butter (I use about 50g max)
1 medium leek, white part only, chopped
3 large fennel bulbs, trimmed of stalks (you want about 750g trimmed weight), chopped, and fronds reserved (these really make a difference when serving)
1 medium, floury potato, peeled and cut into small chunks
4 tbsp Pernod
1 litre chicken stock
150ml double cream
Salt and pepper
Nutmeg

Melt the butter in a large saucepan (again I use my 26cm Le Creuset casserole dish). Add the leek and fennel and sweat gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften. Add the potato, stir, then pour in the Pernod and cook for a minute to bubble off the alcohol. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Cook until the potato is done — about 15 minutes. Add the cream and bring to the boil again, then turn off the heat and liquidise. To do this I use a handheld blender which works really well, turning the soup into lovely smooth texture. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, dusting the top of each one with nutmeg and scattering with some of the reserved fennel fronds.