Fennel is another of those ‘marmite’ foods – you either love it or hate it, depending on whether or not you’re a fan of the flavour of aniseed! Its flavour is also rather different raw, thinly sliced in a salad, than it is cooked. An easy vegetable to cook braised, roasted or as a gratin, but fennel does especially well when combined with other veg. Hardly a problem when variety and health go hand in hand!
Fennel boasts niacin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, vitamin C, folate, potassium and manganese, as well as a good amount of fibre, among its nutrient arsenal. In fact, its many benefits extend from digestive and respiratory health to regulating cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure, fighting macular degeneration, boosting cognitive function, and even fighting anaemia – co-factors like histidine work with the iron, assisting in haemoglobin production. Research in 2011 even found that the extract of fennel seeds proved remarkable in its ability to not just fight tumour growth, but protect cells against the ravages of chemotherapy.
So, maybe more of us will learn to appreciate fennel’s gentle aniseed tang when it’s so good for us! This recipe weaves the slices with potatoes, topped with tomatoes, and spiked with the equally tangy parmesan cheese to create a powerfully healthy, satisfying and rich dish. Accompany with just about anything, from a salad to a slow Sunday roast, and enjoy!
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed
1kg floury potatoes, thinly sliced
200g cherry tomatoes
300ml vegetable or chicken stock
25g Parmesan, finely grated
3 tbsp olive oil
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan. Cut the fennel into quarters, removing the root, then slice as thinly as you can and season. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan, and cook until starting to soften. Oil the bottom of a 1.5-litre gratin dish. Layer the potato slices and fennel, seasoning each layer. Pour in the stock, season and drizzle with the remaining oil. Cover with a layer of baking parchment and bake for 1 hr. At this point, add the tomatoes and the Parmesan to the top, and return to the oven uncovered for 20 mins until the top is golden.
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