I love fennel. It’s an under-used vegetable in home cooking, so my recipes for this month are fish dishes that take advantage of fennel’s versatility and fragrant yet subtle aroma of licorice.
Fennel is also wonderful with meat and poultry and works well in desserts. 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.
FENNEL AND SMOKED SALMON PANNA COTTA
Serves 8 (entree)
½ onion, finely sliced
1 clove crushed garlic
2 star anise
100ml olive oil
250g fennel bulb, finely chopped
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp Pernod
3 leaves geletine
300g sliced smoked salmon
1 lemon, juice
pinch of salt (extra)
pinch of cayenne pepper
250ml cream (extra)
4 tsp caviar (optional)
fennel sprigs (from bulb), to serve
baguette, to serve
olive oil (extra), to brush baguette
1 To make the panna cotta, in a heavy-based saucepan gently sweat onion, garlic and star anise in oil until soft (without colouring). Add fennel and salt and continue to sweat for a further 5 minutes. Add Pernod and cream, bring to the boil and allow to simmer until fennel is soft to the bite. Pour the fennel cream into a liquidiser and puree to a fine consistency. Pass through a fine sieve and allow to cool. Put geletine in half the milk to soften. Add remaining milk to the fennel cream. Dissolve geletine in the milk over low heat and, when fully dissolved, whisk into the fennel cream. Refrigerate to allow panna cotta to start setting.
2 To make the salmon mousse, put the bowl of a food processor in the fridge or freezer to chill for 15 minutes. Reserve 8 slices of smoked salmon for garnish.
3 Put remaining salmon in the chilled food-processor bowl with lemon juice, salt (extra) and cayenne pepper and puree to a fine consistency. Slowly add 100ml of the cream (extra) to salmon until fully combined, then put salmon mixture in a bowl. Half whip the remaining cream and gently fold through salmon mixture. Check the seasoning then divide salmon mixture among 8 small glasses. Remove panna cotta from fridge and pour over the back of a spoon onto salmon to a depth of 2–3cm. Put the glasses in the fridge for about 3 hours to set.
4 To serve, remove glasses from fridge, wrap each slice of reserved smoked salmon around your finger and place in the centre of each glass. Fill the centre of the salmon with caviar (optional) and garnish with fennel sprigs (from bulb). Serve with thin slices of baguette brushed with oil (extra) and dried in the oven on low heat.