The last time I was in the greengrocer’s, they were selling off some bulb fennel at reduced prices, so I bought a bag. Bulb fennel is quite strongly flavoured, and a little goes a long way, so I figured we’d get at least two meals out of it for only about a pound. The first one I sliced up and added to a harvest medley to roast. Oh my goodness! Within minutes, the kitchen smelled so aniseed-y that I thought I was going to be sick. I turned on the extractor fan and hoped for the best. Fortunately, by the time everything was cooked, it had all settled down a bit, and actually tasted pretty nice. (Phew!) So last night, I decided to play it safer, and braise the fennel to add to our dinner. But I also wanted to use up a few scrappy leftovers and play with flavour combinations. This is what I came up with.
|1 teaspoon||Mango chutney (or other very sweet chutney/jam)|
|1||Vegetable stock cube|
|4-6 nests||Fettuccine (I use half whole wheat)|
|A few||Large stuffed olives–leftovers are good!|
|1 tablespoon||Olive oil|
|2-3 ounces||Feta cheese|
|Sprinkling||Herbs, such as oregano (optional)|
- Wash the fennel bulb, slice in half lengthwise and trim off any icky bits.
- Slice each half into vertical slices about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Further slice the ends if they are too chunky. Slice down the middle of each slice. You are aiming for shapely pieces of a relatively uniform size, with nothing too thick which would cook slower.
- Mix chutney with 1/4 cup hot water. You can use the hard-to-get scrapings from an otherwise empty jar for this. Simply pour water into the jar, screw the lid on and shake vigorously. Wear a hot mitt if necessary.
- Add vegetable stock cube to chutney water and stir to dissolve. The small quantity of water mixed with the stock cube will eventually result in a thicker ‘sauce’ instead of the broth you’d get if you used the usual amount of water per cube. Place fennel and flavoured water in microwavable casserole dish with lid. Stir around a bit.
- Cook in microwave on high, stirring every few minutes until fully cooked. This may take 6-10 minutes, depending on microwave power, thickness of vegetable slices, and how much water you actually used (less=faster). When it’s done, you will have ‘braised fennel’. I aimed for al dente, neither squishy nor crunchy, but still holding its shape.
- While fennel is cooking, prepare fettuccine according to package directions. This time around, I used only 4 nests of pasta, as we wanted to have a relatively light meal.
- While fennel and pasta are cooking, slice olives in quarters lengthwise.
- Drain pasta and return to pan.
- Stir in olives and olive oil. If there’s enough with the olives, you won’t need to add any extra; use a rubber scraper to get it all.
- Fold in fennel, again using your rubber scraper to get all the sauce from the casserole dish.
- Portion into dishes, crumble feta over. Garnish with herbs if desired.
Serve this with a side salad for a delicious light meal.