In the kitchen
They are fairly robust but should be kept in the fridge to help retain their fresh crunch. They should be good for a week. Remove any leafy fronds to extend the shelf life; you can save these and use them too.
Prep & Cooking tips
Trim away the tough stalk tops. Cut the bulb in half lengthways. Cut away the solid root core, if it appears particularly tough, with a simple v-shaped cut. You can then slice it as thickly or thinly as you desire. It will discolour a little when cut so dress it in an acidic dressing or keep it in water acidulated with lemon juice.
It is at its simplest finely sliced and eaten raw in a salad. It will impart a light aniseed flavour and a refreshing crunch. It is best cut into wedges for frying, griddling or roasting. You can also cook it low and slow; it will collapse into a rich unctuous mess, perfect under roast pork. Any trimmings are good for the stock pot, especially fish stock. Any fronds can be chopped and scattered as a herby garnish.
The aniseed flavour is stronger when raw; it's lovely thinly sliced and thrown through a salad. Watercress, orange and black olives seem to ally themselves well, as does a little smoked fish, boiled beetroots and dill. Try this recipe for courgette, fennel and kohlrabi salad.
Sliced into thin wedges and fried gently for 10-15 mins, fennel starts to mellow and can form the jumping off point for a pasta sauce, if married with some tomato and chilli; a stew with some saffron, Pernod, stock and white fish; or even a simple soup. If you want to boost the aniseed flavour just add in some toasted and coarsely ground fennel seeds.
Cut the bulbs into generous wedges and fry until the edges start to colour. Drop the heat and cook slowly in olive oil for 30-40 mins until it has collapsed into what can only be described as a mush. Add some chopped garlic midway through and add a little water if it looks like catching in the pan. Finish with salt, pepper and a good squeeze or 2 of lemon juice. It may not look appealing but it is deep, rich and a worthy consort for slow cooked pork or roasted fish.
Goes well with
Fruit (Apples, Pears, Citrus fruit, Carrots, Olives)
Nuts (Almonds, Hazelnuts, Pine nuts, Walnuts)
Fish and shellfish
Roast chicken and blood orange with fennel and olives
Serves: 2 Total time: 1h 10 min
Roast carrots with fennel and honey
Serves: 4 Total time: 35 min
Courgette, fennel and kohlrabi salad
Serves: 4 Total time: 15 min
Serves: 4 Total time: 1h 5 min
Braised fennel and peppers with anise
Serves: 4 Total time: 35 min
Potato and fennel gratin
Serves: 6 Total time: 1h 20 min
In the field
Meet the grower: Nigel Venni, Sacrewell Farm, Cambridgeshire
Sacrewell Farm is Riverford’s home in the East. We’ve been farming there since 2007; it was the first ‘sister’ farm to our original Devon HQ.Read more