My dad and I are the only ones in our family that absolutely love fennel, but I’ve never really eaten it outside of my mom’s cooking and I’ve also never used it in my own cooking so far. But I saw it for sale on my local market and I decided to face up to the challenge and cook with this lovely ingredient that very often gets overlooked. Fennel has a bit of reputation for being a very strong flavour and it also looks fairly funky to some people, and I do agree that if you would cook it on its own it would be a very strong flavour, but if you combine it well it’ll give off a really perfect hint of anise, rather than being very overpowering. So I combined it with some fresh hake, Tipperary Emmental cheese and sweet potatoes and of course a creamy sauce into a really nice gratin.
This dish is really easy to make and the sweetness of the potato balances out that slight anise flavour you’ll get from the fennel. The fish will be cooked to perfection in the creamy sauce and the cheese will give everything a nice crisp layer on top: yum!
Serves: 4 people
- 2 bulbs of fennel
- 500g hake or any other thick white fish
- 500g sweet potato
- 250ml cream (can be soy)
- 250ml milk (can be dairy free)
- 200g Emmental (can be replaced with vegan plain cheese)
- pepper & salt
- handful of fresh parsley
Preheat your oven to 160°C.
Remove the green parts and the very bottom of the fennel bulbs. Don’t throw away the green parts as we’re going to use it again at the very end as garnish. Finely chop up your fennel into strips and heat up olive oil in a frying pan. Cook the fennel for about 5-7 minutes and set aside. Slice up the fish in bite size pieces and place at the bottom of a casserole, season well with pepper and salt. Place the fennel on top of the fish.
Now slice up the sweet potato in discs, don’t make them too thick or they’ll take forever to cook. The ideal size is about 0,5cm. Layer on top of the fennel. In a bowl mix together the milk, cream, season well with nutmeg and pepper and pour it over our casserole. Grate the cheese on top and place in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until your cheese is golden-brown and crispy. Take it out of the oven and cut up a little bit of those fennel feathers (not the actual stalks) and sprinkle on top with some fresh parsley.