Cook With Fennel

Posted on: 25 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

With its creamy white bulb, pale green stalks and feathery leaves fennel is a pretty vegetable that is packed full of flavour.

With its creamy white bulb, pale green stalks and feathery leaves fennel is a pretty vegetable that is packed full of flavour.

It has a distinctive aniseed flavour that goes particularly well with fish or chicken dishes. All parts of the vegetable are edible the bulb and stalk can be sliced and eaten raw or cooked and the fine leaves can be used as a garnish. Mini fennel is also available and is ideal for cooking whole. Choose small, pale green or white unblemished bulbs as dark green bulbs tend to have a bitter flavour.

Fennel can be eaten raw or cooked. Serve slices of raw fennel with French dressing or garlic mayonnaise for dipping or as part of a salad. It can be braised and served as a side dish or cooked in a tomato sauce and topped with cheese for a supper dish.

Trim off the feathery leaves and reserve for garnish, trim off the root. Leave the bulb whole or quarter or thinly slice it. To prevent discolouration, place the pieces into a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice added.

To Cook

Fennel can be braised, sautéed or roasted. To braise, place whole fennel or slices in a pan of water or stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until cooked. To sauté, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan, add sliced fennel and cook for 10-15 minutes or until just tender. To roast preheat the oven to 200C, gas mark 6. Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a roasting tin and heat in the oven, add sliced fennel, season well and roast for 45-55 minutes or until tender.


Fennel & Salmon Parcels

Salmon is complemented by the gentle aniseed flavour of fennel and in this recipe a slightly oriental feel has been created with the addition of the soy sauce and sesame seeds. Serve with stir fried pak or bok choi and boiled rice.


4 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and quartered (680g)
4 salmon fillets (650g)
4 tsp toasted sesame oil (30g)
4 tsp light soy sauce (930g)
2 tsp sesame seeds (2g)


Preheat the oven to 200C / gas Mark 6.

1. Cook the fennel in boiling, salted water for 3-4 minutes until just tender then drain.

2. Place each salmon fillet on a large sheet of foil. Top with 4 fennel quarters. Drizzle 1 tsp each of oil and soy sauce and sprinkle ½ tsp sesame seeds over each fillet.

3: Fold up the foil into a parcel, leaving a little gap at the top. Repeat to make 4 parcels. Place on a baking tray and roast for 15-20 minutes until the salmon is cooked throughout. Alternatively, place on a barbecue until cooked.


Cod with Fennel and Vine Ripened Tomatoes

The lovely aniseed flavour of the fennel compliments the cod beautifully. Fennel is easy to prepare but make sure you prepare it just before cooking to prevent discolouration. The flavour of the vine tomatoes becomes more robust when cooked gently like this and adds colour to this simple dish. You can use cherry tomatoes if you can’t get hold of vine ripened tomatoes. Monkfish would make a delicious substitute for cod.


1 small bulb fennel (approx 200g)
1 tbsp olive oil
300ml hot vegetable stock
8 vine ripened tomatoes, halved (700g)
Juice of 1 lemon
Small bunch oregano, leaves stripped from the stalks (8g)
4 pieces cod fillets (approx 600g)


1. Cut the fennel into quarters and discard the thick core in the middle. Slice into very thin slices.

2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy based frying pan with a lid and add the sliced fennel and fry for 5 minutes until just beginning to soften.

3. Add the stock, halved tomatoes, lemon juice and oregano. Season well and place the cod fillets on top.

4. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 12-15 minutes until the fish is cooked through.


Spring Vegetables with Mint and Fennel Butter

Spring is a fabulous time to feast on new season vegetables which are bursting with flavour and just made to partner with fresh mint. Steaming is a great way to cook them as it traps in all their goodness.


400g new potatoes, scrubbed
200g baby carrots, trimmed and scrubbed
100g asparagus tips, halved
1½ tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
40g butter, very soft
4 tbsp chopped mint
2 tbsp chopped parsley


1. Put the potatoes in a steamer over a pan of boiling water. Cover with a tight fitting lid and steam for 10 minutes. Add the carrots and steam for a further 5-10 minutes or until all the vegetables are just tender.

2. Add the asparagus and steam for a further 2-3 minutes until they’re slightly softened.

3. While steaming, put the fennel seeds in a small frying pan and heat gently for 1 minute to lightly toast the seeds and bring out the flavour. Tip into a bowl and add the butter, herbs and a little seasoning. Beat together until combined.

4. Tip the vegetables into a warmed serving dish, dot with the butter and toss the vegetables gently until coated in melting butter.

Cook’s Tip
This aromatic butter is perfect for topping almost any other spring vegetables such as broad beans, baby turnips, shallots or baby corn. A little finely chopped garlic, anchovy fillet or capers make interesting additions to the butter.


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