Native to the Mediterranean and western Asia, fennel grows wild from Morocco and Portugal in the west to Pakistan in the east, and southern France to Bulgaria on the western shores of the Black Sea. This highly aromatic, bulbous vegetable may be used sautéed to accompany white meat dishes, braised to enhance roast meats, in egg dishes, as a stuffing in fried fish, in salads, and even as a mouth freshener.
Believe it or not, in Europe people use fennel to induce milk flow in lactating mothers.
The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds of fennel are edible. Chopped leaves and stems are used as an aromatic herb and dried seeds can be used to spice up many dishes – including cakes, breads, pies, curries and fish.
Fennel is sometimes called “the slimming herb” because of its stimulating effect on the metabolism. Chewing fennel seeds as a snack to suppress hunger pangs is common in Middle Eastern countries.
The plant grows two-and-a half meter tall. There are a number of varieties, of which the small Florence fennel is the most famous.
Fennel is used in absinth, a potent aromatic spirit, invented in Switzerland in the 19th century, but was prohibited for sale in the 20th century. Now it is available in Europe.
Scientists have proven that wormwood, the ingredient that was thought to be the cause of hallucinations, has no affect on mood changes.
Trout stuffed with fennel
Yield 4 portions
4 160 grams each brook trout, eviscerated
sand pepper tt
flour to dust
4 Tbsp minced fennel
4 Tbsp virgin olive oil
Set oven to 90 C (180 F).
Season cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff cavity with fennel and secure with toothpick.
In a thick-bottomed frying pan, heat the oil.
Dip fish into flour; shake excess off, and brown on both sides to a golden colour. Finish cooking in oven.
Serve with steamed cubed potatoes with chopped dill and olive oil.
Wine match: Albarino from Rias Baixas, Spain, Dry Riesling, Vineland Ontario, or Alsace, or Washington State or New Zealand
Yield: 4 portions
2 fennel bulbs, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil t t
Authentic Balsamic vinegar tt
Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F)
Pour olives oil over fennel and toast to coat all. Sprinkle a little balsamic vinegar
Line baking dish with foil. Place all slices and roast for 15 – 20 minutes, until fennel is cooked. Toss from time to time for even cooking.