Fantastic Fennel: Aussie Grown & $1 Each!
Fennel is at its seasonal best right now and is one of the most versatile winter ingredients as the entire vegetable can be used.
The large, white bulb can be prepared raw or cooked, the stems are fibrous but they can be finely chopped or sliced and used like celery in stews or stocks and the fronds make a great alternative to herbs such as parsley or dill.
Adelaide’s Finest has a great catalogue special this week Aussie fennel bulbs at an unbeatable $1 each!
Fennel is, believe it or not, a species in the carrot family and is known for its crispy texture and slightly sweet, anise-like flavour.
It makes a great hero ingredient when used raw in a classic winter salad which includes shaved fennel, orange segments, black olives, thinly-sliced red onion and a dressing of orange juice, olive oil and white wine vinegar. Adelaide’s Finest also has navel oranges at $4.80 /kg this week, 30% off the usual price.
When it’s cooked, fennel softens and its flavour becomes quite sweet and more mild. It can be grilled on the barbecue, roasted in the oven or gratinated as a comfort food winner.
We’re sharing a recipe which uses seasonal SA-grown green or brown pears with fennel and gruyere cheese. It’s a luxe take on gratinated fennel and is a great side dish for fish and chicken dishes. Everything in the recipe is available at Adelaide’s Finest.
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 teasp dry sherry (optional)
4 teasp fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 teasp salt, plus more
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, plus more
2 large ripe pears
2 fennel bulbs, tops trimmed (reserve fronds)
170g (¾ cup) gruyère cheese, grated (from Cheesebar)
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tblsp Mr Nick’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.
In a small bowl, combine cream, sherry (if using), 2 teaspoons of the thyme, the salt and pepper.
Using a mandoline (or a sharp knife), cut the pears lengthwise into thin planks, removing the seeds, core and stem from the centre. Slice the fennel bulb lengthwise as thinly as possible.
In a baking dish, layer half of the pear planks and half of the fennel slices. Drizzle with half of the cream mixture and sprinkle with half of the cheese.
Repeat to create another layer. Cover with foil and bake until the pears and fennel are tender when pierced with a fork (about 1 hour).
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the panko crumbs with the remaining 2 teaspoons of thyme, 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fennel fronds, the olive oil, a pinch of salt, and several grinds of pepper.
Sprinkle the topping over the gratin. Continue baking until the topping is evenly browned and the pears and fennel are very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve hot.
Fun fact for fennelphiles: Adelaide’s Finest is owned by the Chapley family which is proud of its Greek heritage. The Greek word for fennel is marathon which is so named because the region where the famous Marathon battle was fought is covered with natural growth of fennel.