When I first saw this recipe in Yotam Ottolenghi's wonderful book Plenty, I was a little skeptical. It looked gorgeous, but the idea of sweetening fennel with sugar somehow sounded a bit off to me. But then after the lovely Joanne at Eats Well With Others made it a while back, and raved about it, it had to go on my "must make" list.
I'm sure it comes as no surprise that it's a very long list indeed, but just to prove that things on the list do eventually get made, when I saw beautiful little fresh fennel bulbs at the local farmers market the other day, I knew the time had arrived to move this dish off the list and on to a plate. What's more this seemed like the perfect dish to share for our Pot Luck theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs.
I made a couple of small changes to the original recipe. I left out butter since I am on a "no dairy" kick at the moment. Now, I'm sure it would taste fantastic with the butter - of course, anything sizzled in butter does. Heck, you could probably caramelise a piece of boot leather in butter and it would taste great. But seriously, this dish was great without it, and I didn't miss it at all. I also replaced sugar with honey. And, when it came to serving time, I tossed in a little thinly sliced preserved lemon and a handful of olives, and called it dinner. I think a handful of toasted pine nuts or hazelnuts would also make a good addition if you felt so inclined.
The honeyed fennel is definitely a surprising combination, but a delightful surprise and I'll certainly be making it again. The sweetness with the aniseed flavour of the fennel somehow really works and, partnered with the crunch of fennel seeds and the slight saltiness of the goat cheese, Ottolenghi has come up with another winning combination of tastes and textures.
Caremelised Fennel with Goat Cheese Recipe
Adapted (slightly) from recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe
4x small fennel bulbs
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 clove garlic, crushed
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
goat cheese, as much as you like
extra virgin olive oil to finish
Remove any tough outer leaves, and a little bit of the woody stem from the base of the fennel bulbs. Remove the fronds from the tops, and reserve a generous handful of the fronds. Cut the fennel bulbs lengthwise into 1cm (1/2 in) slices.
Heat olive oil in a large frying pan set over medium heat. Add slices of fennel in a single layer to the pan, and cook until lightly golden on both sides. You will probably have to do this in a couple of batches. Remove cooked fennel slices to a plate.
Add honey to the pan, along with the fennel seeds, garlic, a generous pinch of flaky sea salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Stir to dissolve the honey. Then return the fennel to the pan, and toss gently for a few minutes to ensure every piece is coated in the honey sauce, and the fennel is cooked through to tender, but still retaining a little bite.
Remove to a serving platter, and allow to cool a little before sprinkling over some of the crumbled goat cheese, and a good handful of the roughly chopped reserved fennel fronds. Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
Equally delicious served still warm or at room temperature.
If you would like to get to know Yotam Ottolenghi a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...
... or check out Plenty and Ottolenghi's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Fishpond NZ.
I'm also sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, at My Meatless Mondays hosted by Chaya at My Sweet and Savory, and Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollam.