This recipe is based on one that I saw being made by chef and author Simon Hopkinson.
Yes - this IS a rich dish but it tastes wonderful! You can serve this as an accompaniment to grilled or barbecued chicken or fish, or as a dish in its own right. I have adapted the original recipe to include a good glug of Pernod – just to give that extra anise kick!
Fennel is a curious plant with a long history of use for both culinary and medicinal purposes. The bulb, foliage, and seeds of the plant are widely used in cooking in many parts of the world. The seeds, which are brown or green when fresh, can be dried and used as a spice. The leaves of the are delicately flavoured and, in shape, reminiscent to those of dill. The bulb is crisp and can be sautéed, stewed, braised, grilled and also eaten raw. Fennel can be used is both sweet and savoury dishes but it is far more commonplace used in the latter.
Fennel has been grown throughout Europe, particularly around the Mediterranean Sea since ancient times. Ancient Roman texts extol the merits of the plant for its aromatic seeds and succulent, edible stalks. The Romans introduced fennel to Britain and it was first cultivated in America in the 18th Century. The root of the plant was one of the flavourings used in Sack, an alcoholic beverage featuring mead that was popular during Shakespearian times and it is also one of three key ingredients in another alcoholic drink - absinthe.
Ingredients:2-3 fennel bulbs,trimmed and halved but reserve the trimmings
Salt and pepper to season
Method:1. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
2. Melt the butter in a casserole dish over a low heat. Place the fennel into the butter cut-side down, and scatter around the trimmings. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and increase the heat.
3. Add the Pernod and cover with the dish with a tight fitting lid. Cook in the pre-heated oven for approximately one hour, turning the fennel half way through the cooking time.
4. Remove from the oven when the fennel is cooked through and tender.
5. Preheat the grill to high.
6. Remove the fennel from the dish. Place in a warmed shallow oven-proof dish cut-side up, cover with foil and place in the oven while you make the sauce.
7. Pour the trimmings and cooking juices through a fine sieve suspended over a small pan. Warm through and add 45g/1½oz of the parmesan. Blend with a hand blender until smooth and creamy (about the consistency of pouring cream).
8. Pour the mixture over the fennel and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Place under the grill and cook until the surface is pale golden-brown and slightly bubbling around the edges.