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 panna cotta (see recipe)
4 x 150g snapper fillets, skin and bones removed
salt, to season
3 tbsp clarified butter
4 small farmed paua (6.5cm shell length)
12 asparagus spears, trimmed
50ml peanut oil
1 tsp minced ginger
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
100g mixed mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, enoki), sliced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 cup pea shoots
pinch of salt
1 For the fennel cream, make the fennel panna cotta recipe, omitting the milk and geletine, and keep warm.
2 Preheat oven to 220C. Season snapper fillets with salt. Heat butter in an ovenproof non-stick frying pan. When hot add fillets, skin-side down, and place in oven for 4 minutes. Turn fillets over and return to oven for 30 seconds. Remove fillets from pan and keep warm.
3 To make the stir-fry, remove paua from shell using a dessert spoon, to release the mussel, and trim the base. Place paua in a tea towel and hit with the base of a heavy pan or hammer a few times to tenderise. Finely slice paua and set aside.
Blanch asparagus in boiling salted water for 1 minute. Refresh in iced water and thinly slice. Set aside. Heat oil in a wok. When hot add ginger and garlic, cooking for 10 seconds to flavour the oil, then add mushrooms and cook for 1 minute.
Add paua, asparagus, spring onion, coriander, pea shoots and salt and cook for 30 seconds, tossing the wok to mix the ingredients and coat them in oil.
4 To serve, spoon some fennel cream onto each plate, place a snapper fillet on the fennel cream and top with the stir-fry.
Note: For this recipe, an alternative to paua is thinly sliced scallops or squid.