Fennel Soup with Winter Greens and Bacon. Fresh fennel is available from autumn to early spring. Buy tight, compact, medium-sized bulbs with nice green sprigs that you can use for garnishing.
2 large leeks, sliced, washed thoroughly
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
3 fennel bulbs, roughly chopped
900g potatoes, roughly chopped
1.2 litres chicken stock, hot
150ml whipping cream
1 small or ½ large savoy cabbage
or other winter greens
175g pancetta or smoked
streaky bacon, diced
½ cup roughly chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add leek and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until very soft. Add fennel seeds and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in chopped fennel and potatoes.
2 Cover vegetables with a sheet of wet baking paper and cook, covered, over a low heat for 10-12 minutes or until leek is soft. Remove and discard paper. Add stock and bring to the boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.
3 Cool slightly. Blend half the soup until smooth. Press through a sieve into the remaining soup in the pan. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Gently reheat soup, making sure not to let it boil.
Meanwhile, discard tough outer leaves from cabbage. Roughly tear remaining leaves, discarding any hard stalks. Blanch in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes. Refresh under cold running water and drain.
4 Melt butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook for 3-4 minutes or until golden. Add cabbage and thyme and stir-fry for 5 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Season with salt and pepper.
5 Ladle soup into deep bowls and top with winter greens and bacon. Serve.