Tag Archives: fennel

Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel Bulbs with Tomato Sauce

20 Mar

Risotto Stuffed Fennel with Tomato Sauce

Fennel is another one of those vegetables, like cauliflower, that gets a bit of a bad name. People have preconceived ideas about it. They don’t like it. But many have never tried it cooked. I may have been one of those narrow-minded people.

Fennel Plants

Running past this field full of feathery fennel fronds floating in the breeze in front of an 11th Century Moorish watchtower while Rufus begs me to turn around and run back because of the pack of very tiny dogs who bark (or actually yap) at his heels as we pass, made me want to research this undervalued vegetable a little more deeply.

And by research I mean, look at recipes. On Pinterest mainly. Not that I’m addicted or anything but that is where I store all of the recipes I like the look of and want to make soon.

Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Fennel Bulb

The idea for this recipe didn’t come from Pinterest though. It came from Jim, The Washer Up’s dad. It’s not his recipe. I don’t think he stretches much farther than a ham sandwich in his own particular kitchen, but he does send me everything food related cut out from the British press, neatly folded in a brown envelope every couple of weeks. This is always a very welcome distraction, for me, from any cleaning that might need doing.

It was in one of those envelopes that I found out about baking and stuffing fennel.

Fennel Stock & Bulbs

Because I bought four whole fennel (complete with long feathery fronds still attached)  from the farmer’s market on Sunday, I decided I wouldn’t waste all of that aniseedy greenery and I made a stock out of them for the risotto. This isn’t essential but if you have them, you may as well if you have the time.

Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel

In the original recipe they stuffed the fennel with wild rice. I decided to make a risotto using brown rice and the mushrooms I had in my fridge and use that to stuff them instead.

I have finally worked out how to make risotto from brown rice that actually looks and tastes like risotto. You have to part cook the rice first so it is nearly done. Then you add it to the risotto and continue as you would with uncooked risotto rice. It’ so much softer and creamier. I have to give credit to The Washer Up for this tip, he has been telling me to do it for ages.

And he was right. There I said it.

Risotto Stuffed Fennel

To make the fennel stock I cut the stalks and fronds off of the fennel bulbs and chopped them up roughly. I put them in  a large pot with 3 or 4 bay leaves, 15 whole peppercorns and a good teaspoon of salt. Bring this to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, covered for about an hour. Taste and add more salt if necessary . Then drain and store in the fridge or freezer in 500 ml or 1 litre pots.

You can just use a normal vegetable stock if you don’t have the fronds, time or inclination.

Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel Recipe

Serves  4, vegetarian. Adapted from

  • 300 ml brown rice
  • 600 ml fennel stock or water

Put the rice and stock/water in a pan. Bring to the boil then lower the heat, cover and cook for about 15 minutes until the rice is nearly cooked. Drain if necessary. Rinse under cold water if not using straight away to stop the cooking and set aside.

  • 4  fennel bulbs
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • white wine (or cava)

Preheat oven to 180C. Cut about 2 cm off of the base of each bulb so it can stand up. Then cut another inch or so off of the tops. Remove any damaged/bruised outer layers. Using a teaspoon, hollow out the fennel bulbs as best you can (see picture above) reserving the fennel flesh for the risotto.

Stand the hollowed out fennel bulbs on a large sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt & pepper. Start to bring the edges of the foil up and around the fennel then carefully pour in about 4 Tbsp white wine. Seal the foil package completely around the fennel but make sure that they are still standing. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until nicely softened.

  • reserved fennel flesh from above, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves, garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • a good pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 lemon, zested 
  • about 250 g mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
  • a splosh of white wine
  • up to 1 litre vegetable/fennel stock
  • 30 g grated manchego/parmesan
  • a handful of breadcrumbs
  • a handful of manchego/parmesan
  • fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • a handful of pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • tomato pasta sauce/marinara sauce

Put the stock in a small pan over a medium heat and keep hot but not boiling.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion, celery, chopped fennel and a pinch of salt and cook for about 4 minutes until softened but not browned. Then add the garlic, thyme, chilli flakes, half of the lemon zest and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, cook for three minutes until softened then add the part cooked rice. Add a good splosh of white wine and cook until evaporated. Season well with salt & black pepper then start adding the hot stock a ladleful at a time, waiting for it to be absorbed before adding the next ladleful, stirring and swirling occasionally. Keep going until you have used all the stock and the rice is cooked. The risotto should be soft and quite liquidy.

Add a squeeze of lemon, a little of the chopped parsley and stir in the 30 gr grated manchego/parmesan. Turn off the heat, put a lid on and leave for 3-5 minutes. Heat up your tomato sauce.

If your fennel bulbs are done remove them from the oven and put the grill/broiler on high.

Mix together the breadcrumbs, grated manchego/parmesan, rest of the lemon zest, some pine nuts & some chopped parsley in a small bowl.

Check the risotto for seasoning add more salt if necessary. Spoon some risotto into each fennel bulb right to the top and a little bit more, sprinkle over the breadcrumb mix and put them under the grill for a minute or two until browned.

To serve: Cover the base of each dish with a shallow pool of risotto and place the stuffed fennel in the middle. Spoon some of the tomato sauce on and around the dish and garnish with some of the breadcrumb mix if you have any left, some chopped parsley or fennel fronds.

Risotto Stuffed Fennel & Tomato Sauce

Buen Provecho!!

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Fennel and Orange Risotto with spring onion, goat’s ricotta and chilli

8 Mar

The fennel plant we are growing in a pot on our roof terrace is ready to harvest. Is ready the right word? I’m not sure.

Some of the spring onions are looking good too. Spring onions (cebolletas) in Spain are huge. They are completely different to the spring onions/scallions you get in the UK or US. So when I say use 1 spring onion it’s probably equivalent to 4 or 5 scallions.

I have been looking for suitable fennel recipes for a while now. Something to really showcase our first and only fennel. It had to be something special.  The classic Fennel & Orange Salad sounded lovely and fresh but it is raining here at the moment so I didn’t really feel like a salad. I wanted something warm and comforting. I came across a recipe for Orzotto with Sausage, Fennel & Rosemary on The Culinary Taste. Orzotto is a barley risotto. This was exactly the kind of thing I had been looking for. Minus the sausage, obviously. Rita said she was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe for Fennel Risotto so I asked her what other ingredients he had added. His recipe was for Fennel Risotto with Ricotta & Dried Chilli.

Jamie’s recipe used the zest & juice of a lemon as well. This got me thinking back to the classic fennel & orange salad combo and I decided (living in Andalucia) to use orange instead of lemon and our beautiful spring onions were the natural substitute for normal onions.

local cheese producer makes a goat’s ricotta (requeson in Spanish) which I had been wanting to try for a while. So, I had all the ingredients for the perfect, seasonal, locally produced, homegrown dish. Exciting!

Fennel & Orange Risotto with Spring Onion, Goat’s Ricotta & Chilli

Serves 4 vegetarian. Adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter plus 1 tbsp for finishing
  • 1 fennel, finely chopped fronds reserved for garnish
  • 1 stick celery finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 large Spanish spring onion or 4 or 5 small, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • a splash of white wine/vermouth
  • about 300 gr risotto rice (I used brown)
  • about 1 litre of veg stock
  • about 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 4 tbsp goats requeson (ricotta), normal ricotta or soft goat’s cheese
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • about 50 gr grated parmesan

Put the veg stock in a small pan over a low heat. Heat the oil and 1 tbsp butter in a large pan over a medium heat and add the fennel seeds, spring onions, celery, and chopped fennel. Cook for a few minutes until softened and translucent then add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add in the rice and stir to coat in the oil and butter. When the rice starts to turn translucent add in the wine and cook until it evaporates.

Add a ladle of the hot stock and season well with salt & black pepper. When all the liquid has been absorbed add another ladle of stock, stir or swirl the rice, wait for it to be absorbed and repeat until the rice is cooked. This should take about 18 minutes with white rice and longer with brown.

When the rice is cooked remove the pan from the heat, add the tbsp butter, parmesan, orange zest, half the orange juice and crumble over the ricotta. Stir, put the lid on and leave for 2 minutes.

Taste and add more orange juice if you think it needs it. Serve in warmed bowls garnished with a pinch of dried chilli flakes and the fennel fronds. Have a bowl of the ricotta and Parmesan on the table for people to help themselves to.

The flavour combination of the fennel and orange is really bright, slightly sweet & fresh. Together with the creaminess of the ricotta it is a deliciously rich dish, unusually reminiscent of a dessert in some ways. But don’t let that put you off. Serve it as a starter or lunch dish rather than a main course to people who appreciate different flavours and they will be left wanting more….

Ruby Beetroot and Pear Chutney with Squash and Chickpea Curry and Flatbreads

18 Feb

It’s all about the Beetroot Chutney for me. I don’t even like beetroot. Well I don’t like the beetroot you get in jars, all pickled and vinegary. Leaching it’s dark pink juice everywhere and contaminating whatever else is on the plate. 

I am always willing to be proven wrong and to make a complete about-face and this is one of those occasions. I love this beetroot chutney. I love the colour, it’s ruby-red shining jewels flecked with intriguing dark spices is a beautiful thing. I love the flavour, it’s a sweet, spicy, dark and mysterious blend that enhances any curry (or cheese sandwich for that matter)!

The other thing I love about it is that it is really easy to make. I just bought some cooked beetroot (it comes vacuum packed). You can roast or boil it and peel it yourself  if you like.

Ruby Beetroot & Pear Chutney Recipe

makes about 1 jar, vegan

  • 2 cooked beetroot, diced
  • 1 pear, peeled, cored & diced
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp punch pooran*
  • 4 tbsp white or white wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsp white sugar

* Punch Pooran is a whole spice mix available from Indian supermarkets that gives a balanced flavour to any Indian dishes. Mine is from East End Foods.

Heat some oil in a pan over a medium heat and add in the whole spices. When they start to splutter add in the onion and ginger and cook for about 2 minutes. Add in the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until it has thickened and looks like chutney. Pour into a hot sterilised jar (just put it through the dishwasher), seal immediately, leave to cool then refrigerate.

Serve with mini poppadoms as an informal starter  to an Indian meal alongside a coriander & lemon yoghurt raita. Or pile it on a sharp cheese like a Lancashire Crumbly( thanks Joan & Terry) in a sandwich, as part of a cheese board or as a new jacket potato filling: Lancashire Crumbly & Beetroot & Pear Chutney. It’s the way forward. You could also serve it with your favourite curry dish which is what I did on Tuesday night when we had friends for dinner.

Now Rhian, who doesn’t cook, has promised to make this, because she enjoyed it so much and has been inspired. Okay Rhian, here’s the recipe, no excuses now………..

Butternut Squash & Chickpea Curry Recipe

serves 6 – 8, vegan

  • 1 large butternut squash, cut into 1 inch chunks
  •  1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  •  1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp onion seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 or 2 tsp punch pooran*
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 large red chilli, chopped
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes 400 gr
  • 3 or 4 tbsp tomato puree (tomate frito)
  • 1 400 gr jar/tin cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 500 ml – 1 litre veg stock
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • a big handful of fresh coriander, chopped. Plus leaves for garnish
  • * Punch Pooran is a whole spice mix available from Indian supermarkets that gives a balanced flavour to any Indian dishes. Mine is from East End Foods.

    In a big deep pot, heat some oil over a medium heat. Throw in the whole spices, when they start popping, add in the onion with a big pinch of salt and cook for about 4 minutes until softened. Add in the garlic, ginger, chilli and the  rest of the powdered spices and cook for another minute. Tumble in the squash chunks and stir well to coat with the spices. 

    Pour in the tinned tomatoes, rinsed chickpeas and the tomato puree. Stir again so everything is well-distributed. Season well with salt & black pepper then add in 5ooml veg stock. Stir and bring to the boil. When boiling reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 20 – 30 minutes depending on your squash.
    When the squash is cooked/tender take the lid off and cook for another 5 minutes to reduce/thicken the sauce if necessary. If it is dry add some more veg stock until you get the consistency you are looking for. If it is too liquidy you can take out a ladleful of the curry, blend it to a puree and add it back into the pot.
    Just before serving squeeze over the lemon juice and stir in the chopped coriander. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or lemon juice to taste.

I served this with my Leek & Fennel Seed Flatbreads, some mixed wild rice and the beetroot & pear chutney. I used strong bread flour to make the flatbreads this time and had a much better result…..

Good luck & enjoy!!!

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