Make friends with fennel

Fennel has a delicate, fresh aniseed flavour. It marries so well with so many dishes that you’ll wonder how you lived without it. There are three parts of the fennel plant we can use: the bulb, seeds and fine leaves. The only inedible parts really are the hard stalks, but these are still excellent in stocks.

Fennel is the perfect partner for any seafood dish, so serve it on the side as a salad or a roast vegetable. You can also stuff a whole fish with fennel and lemon slices or bake fish in foil parcels with fennel and lemon.

It’s the fennel seeds in tea that are well known as a digestive aid. Fennel is soothing on the digestive tract and nursing mothers can calm colicky babies by eating fennel.

Fennel is very good at stabilising blood-sugar levels and food cravings, so has been used for many years as a useful tool in weight loss and managing cravings, especially sugar cravings. Fennel seeds are also mildly diuretic and cleansing to congested lymphatic systems. In plain English, fennel is great for fluid retention and cellulite.

Rich in phytoestrogens, fennel helps relieve hormonal problems such as PMS and menopausal symptoms. And as it is soothing on the whole abdominal region it can only bring relief. It might also relieve the uncontrollable urge to scoff mountains of chocolate at that time of the month.

Fennel is in season at the moment so make the most of this wonderful vegetable. Finely slice it into salads or wrap the bulbs in foil and roast on the BBQ.

Baked Fennel with a Crispy Topping

  • 3 fennel bulbs, stalks removed, cut into quarters (reserve the delicate leaves)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 50g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper

Method

  •  Preheat oven to 190C.
  • Place fennel on a baking tray, brush with half the olive oil and season with some salt and pepper.
  • Mix the rest of the olive oil with the breadcrumbs, cheese, lemon zest, parsley and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until the fennel is softened and the coating is crispy.
  • Garnish with the fennel leaves.

Source: Irish Independent

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