Fennel is not very popular in this house. But, as you can see, they liked this .. except Alfred, who wouldn't try it: "Fennel, that's the stuff I ate once and didn't like." I don't normally let anyone get away with that sort of remark ("your tastebuds change" the family all chant whenever I'm in danger of saying something similar). But there's something about that aniseedy taste which you can't really force on people.
It's years since I've braised anything other than a piece of meat, and I'd forgotten what a convenient way of cooking it is, and how much flavour it adds. I'm now dreaming of braised Little Gem, and braised chicory (that's another vegetable I can't get anyone to eat, too bitter). After I'd cleared up lunch, and was doing a little blog surfing, I noticed that several people were talking about a new book about braising - it's obviously making a come-back.
The key, it seems to me, is to avoid the anaemic look, so you start with a little energetic browning, then add your liquid and flavourings, cover and simmer for the right amount of time (Who needs a cookbook when you've got the blogosphere? Funny how we've all got SO many!).
You need a heavy-bottomed frying pan with a lid, large enough to take the fennel slices in one layer.
Slice each head of fennel into four or five pieces each just under a centimetre thick. Fry them hard in olive oil until browned. Turn them, fry a little more, then add some stock, to come half way up the fennel. Bring to the boil, cover, turn down the heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the fennel is tender. You'll need to watch it towards the end, particularly if the lid is not close fitting. Ideally, serve from the pan.
This is my entry for weekend herb blogging, this week hosted by Thyme for Cooking. There are some great recipes to try in the round-up for last week's whb, which you'll find at Key Lime & Coconut. There's a lot of soup, so you feel that winter's not quite yet over ...
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