Posts Tagged ‘fennel’

LUNCH today:


A sparklingly, fresh salad to complement and cut the rich oiliness of the stuffed mackerel fillets.

Just one large fennel bulb (outer leaves removed), one large spring onion (outer layer removed), one long celery stick (sliced thinly), several large red radishes (sliced thinly) and some chopped parsley to sprinkle over.

Add some lightly pan roasted sunflower seeds–if you have them and a dressing of the juice of a lemon, some salt and pepper to taste and three or four tablespoons of the best olive oil you have, whisked in.

Turn everything over carefully so the dressing gets to visit all corners!



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“Troubles come not single spies but in battalions…” (Claudius in Hamlet)


Russian actor Nikolai Massalitinov as Claudius with Olga Knipper as Gertrude, fully braced for “troubles”; in the Moscow Art Theatre production of Hamlet–a few years ago!

First it was the TV–no picture from the UK– satellite dish has to be larger now to receive the BBC; then the temperature control on the oven called it a day and now neither of the keys will open the car doors electronically.

And to cap it all in this catalogue of woes (or self pitying monologue), three recipes I was hoping to write up turned out to be duds!

Not exactly a battalion of troubles compared to this horror the folks in Cornwall have been facing.

But enough to tickle the imagination and set off a search for alternatives.

French TV or a good book/internet stuff by the fire? No contest for much of an evening.

No oven? no matter…

Top o’the stove to ye all me ‘arties!

Last night I remembered the spicy dal in the fridge from a couple of nights back–firm enough to form little patties to fry lightly in olive oil.

I had spotted some locally grown endive yesterday at Castres market–those torpedo shaped lettuce that intrigue, but can flummox too. What to do with them other than add to salad?

This recipe from my new book,  Healthy Eating for Life, suggests cooking them in the oven. But no working oven!

I excavated  one good fennel bulb left in the fridge too.

This recipe for pot-roasted fennel from my first cookbook, Delicious Dishes for Diabetics, sautés them slowly on top o’ the stove.


Solution: cook ’em together–on top!!

Sweet fennel, plus the faint bitterness of the endive, finished with squeeze of lemon.

I halved the prepared endives lengthwise to shorten the cooking; then browned them in two fluid ounces of olive oil on a medium flame, uncovered, with the fennel (sliced top to bottom in 8 pieces) and garlic (unpeeled), for ten minutes.

Added four fluid ounces of water to the pan and cooked the mix–covered–for a further twenty minutes–until the vegetables are tender.

We dined last night reflecting on how lucky we are to live in a rectory between a church and cemetery, on a rise where the rain runs downhill bypassing us.


We say it often: The ancients knew a thing or two about where to build their sacred spots.

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Back in the days before enlightenment–BE or rather BMbefore Meredithdespairing black moods regularly followed perceived failure, chez-moi.

“Buck up”–my mother used to say—“failure is character building”!

“Don’t make it worse, Ma!”

The first night of the RSC’s  production of King Lear in the 1976 Stratford season was one such occasion.

Donald Sinden (Lear) and Judi Dench (Regan) among the cast.

I was playing Edmund, the bastard son of Gloucester.

The famous speech/soliliquy which ends–“Now God–stand up for bastards!” had gone over well during the three weeks (too long) of previews, with some morale-boosting laughs.

Come press night, the first 7 or 8 rows of critics sit stony-faced–they’d seen King Lear countless times.

Not a squeak, not a giggle and no visible smiles–just an aggressive (as I heard it) silence.

I am unnerved and later fluff a line.

The result is–Black Dog!

Poor proud parents have to endure a post-play drink with an inconsolable zombie son.

They do get to meet Judi Dench–ebullient as ever; though I was never sure she enjoyed playing Regan!

Scroll down the years to last night.

I tried out a new dish involving butternut squash and green split peas.


The peas wouldn’t soften and the squash was tough.

The spicy sauce wasn’t bad, but the time it had all taken to cook was demoralizing.

Was I downhearted? Of course not! It’s PM now, I’m forty years older–that would be silly!

I awoke this morning, though, in need for something completely different: lamb chops? Sausages?

I drove to Lautrec’s Friday market.

Sausages–fait mason [made by the butcher]–won the day and here is the result:


A one pot dish inspired by a recipe in the second Riverford Farm cookbook.

Celery and fennel make for good companions with the modest amount of sausage.


Kale or Swiss chard can substitute for the spinach–or you can just  omit the greens.

for 3/4

1 tbsp olive oil

450gm/1 lb good quality pork sausages

50 gm/2oz bacon–diced

2 medium onions–sliced

2 garlic cloves–pulped in a little salt

8oz celery–cut into inch-size chunks

1 large fennel bulb–outer leaves removed, halved vertically and then each half carefully divided into eight pieces. (This helps them become tender quicker!)

2 bay leaves 

a good sprig of fresh thyme

1 tbs tomato concentrate

100ml red wine–a small wine glass

600ml stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes

4 tsp dijon mustard

8oz spinach–washed and thick stems removed

400gms cooked white beans from a tin [can] or jar

salt and pepper

  • Sauté the sausages and bacon in the olive oil for 10 minutes in a pan large enough to hold all the ingredients.
  • Remove the sausages to a plate.
  • Sauté the onions and garlic gently in the pan until the onions soften and turn opaque; take care not to let them burn on the bottom of the pan.


  • Add the fennel, the celery, tomato concentrate and herbs


  • Turn everything over thoroughly.


  • Add the red wine and mix again, scraping up the good bits as you go!
  • Add the stock, the saved sausages and stir in the mustard.
  • Bring the pan to a simmer and leave it to bubble gently for about 20 minutes.


  • Check the seasoning. I found it didn’t require added salt–the bacon and stock cube were sufficiently salty–but added some freshly-milled black pepper.
  • Spread the greens over the top of the dish and leave them for ten minutes to start dissolving into it. (Cover the pan if you feel the need).IMG_1218
  • Gently stir in the greens and add the beans.
  • Cook for a further few minutes to heat through.


We had the dish for lunch served over half a baked sweet potato each.


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I fought some squid and lost!

The fishmonger in Castres had no squid for sale—a warning sign I should have respected.

SuperU is usually good for fish but was too far out of my way.

Leclerc could be on my way home.

Why do we do these things?

I had that sneaky feeling I should leave them and try the fishmonger in Lautrec in the morning but Meredith expressed interest in squid stew.

We are up to our eyes getting things shipshape to leave and I couldn’t face having to think about dinner any more.


I stop off at Leclerc.

I normally accept the fishmonger’s offer to les nettoyer (clean them up and take the skin off ) then finish the job myself at home, but the fish assistant doesn’t want to do anything but wrap them up.


I get them home and and start to skin them–or at least try.

Very soon they begin to get under my skin as I failed to get under theirs.

And the tentacles felt tougher than usual.

I cut one squid on the tentacle side of the ‘eye’

and a swoosh of black squid ink shoots across the kitchen, hits the back door and covers the floor.

Do I really want to eat these recalcitrant mariners? Not much, but am reluctant now to give in.

I’m in a the battle with the squid!


My frustration increases and I’m in danger of nicking myself with the knife I’m using.

There’ll be more than black ink on the floor, but I persist in this madness–until my back starts telling me no dish is worth this amount of hassle.

The four fennel bulbs in the fridge that have been metaphorically tapping me on the shoulder for a good fifteen minutes–finally manage to persuade me that there’s more to life than skinning squid and…

we have fennel soup and cheese instead for supper!–quick to do and a healthier option at night.

Squid!  watch out –I’m looking for a return match!

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My first posting on this blog was a year ago today–7th of February 2011!

Poaching Eggs–was a homage to one of my food heroines, the formidable Elizabeth David.

I can’t remember exactly the weather that day but it may not have been so different to today’s–which is nose-endangeringly cold.

So a long nod of thanks to everyone that has visited and those that continue to visit and thanks too for  the comments–they are all read and much appreciated.

AND special thanks to my in-house photographer and editor with whom discussion is always lively and from whom I learn a lot!

Here’s a salad to celebrate.

Seasonally crunchy (not much choice from the locals this morning)–with a juicy orange and some sunflower seeds, to put one in mind of seasons to come.

It got the nod at lunch today from Meredith–(though not the mackerel fillet that it accompanied–next time I’ll use less smoked sweet paprika!).

For 2

1 large fennel bulb–outer leaves removed, stood upright and halved through the middle, each cut half laid flat and halved again, then sliced very thinly

celery stalk–sliced thinly

half a small sweet red onion–sliced thinly

1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds–dry roasted in a frying pan on the stove top

1 tablespoon of parsley–chopped

a few shavings of parmesan

1 juicy orange–carefully peeled (lifting off the white pith), halved and sliced thinly

salt for sprinkling

1 tablespoon best quality olive oil for dressing

  • Mix the first seven ingredients together with care in a favorite bowl.
  • Sprinkle with salt and the oil–add more oil if you like.
  • Lightly turn everything over.
  • Check the seasoning and serve.

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My copies of Rose Elliot’s vegetarian cookbooks, Not Just a Load of Lentils and The Bean Book, have been on my bookshelves for ages and are much thumbed!

First published in the 1970sher recipes have withstood the test of time–and the ingredients often fit in with my adopted way of eating.

This is adapted from a recipe in The Bean Book. 

I made it in the morning and gently reheated it in the evening–giving the spices time to settle and meld. We had it for supper last night and it was worth the wait.

Meredith is wary of pulses because of their tendency to cause flatulence.

This time the positive outweighed the negative and she gave it the thumbs up–phew!

for 4

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 small onion–chopped

1 clove of garlic–peeled & chopped

1/2  teaspoon of powdered cumin

1/2 teaspoon of powdered coriander

1/2 teaspoon each of garam masala ( an earlier post), turmeric, ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cayenne/chili powder

1 teaspoon fresh root ginger–peeled & chopped (optional)

1 large jar of cooked chickpeas–drained (the precise quantity is not critical!)

2 fennel bulbs–outer leaves removed, quartered and chopped

1 large leek–damaged outer parts removed, cut down to the base, washed and sliced

2 tablespoons of parsley or coriander–chopped

1 pint of vegetable stock (I use organic cubes diluted with boiling water.)

  • Heat the oil in a pan.
  • Gently fry the cumin seeds until they start to pop.
  • Add the onion and garlic and soften–about 3 minutes.

  • Add the spices and mix them in.

  • Add the chickpeas.
  • Add the leeks and fennel and mix.

  • Add the stock–start with half a pint and adjust as needed.
  • Bring the mixture up to boil, then cover the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.

  • Fold in a tablespoon of parsley or coriander.
  • Sprinkle the second  tablespoon of parsley or coriander over the dish when you serve it hot with…
  • Brown basmati rice and yogurt sauce (see the next post).

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We tasted this new soup for lunch.

When Dianne P. from New Hampshire posted her memorable photos taken 33 years ago, in autumn of 1978 on the set of The Europeans in New Ipswich, New Hampshire on Flikr last night, it put me in mind of the late Ismael Merchant’s cooking.

He was the producer half of  Merchant/Ivory productions–Jim Ivory is the director of their movies.

I played the frustratingly “unable to commit” Robert Acton, opposite the much lamented and talented Lee Remick, in their film of Henry James’ novella.

Ismael was a wonderful cook and would sometimes use his talent to smooth the ruffled feathers of nervous creditors when the film threatened to overrun.

One of his curry feasts, I remember, bought us enough time to finish the film!

There’s a soup in his book Indian Cuisine called “Claverack Carrot Soup“.

We used to have it often, but after I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it came “off the menu”, because of the potatoes and carrots in it.

I had some fennel and a sweet potato I wanted to use and a nobly piece of ginger–and autumn has  arrived with the clocks going back;  so I thought I’d experiment–with a nod to Ismael and thanks again to Dianne!

1 medium onion–chopped roughly

1 tablespoon of olive oil

12 oz of cleaned and chopped fennel

12 oz of peeled and chopped sweet potato

1 clove of garlic–chopped fine

a thumb-nail size piece of  fresh ginger–peeled and chopped fine

1.5 pints of stock–I use organic vegetable stock

a little single cream or yogurt to swirl on top in each bowl

Salt and pepper

for 4

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion.
  • Soften it for 10 minutes without browning it.
  • Add the fennel and the garlic, mix it in with the onion and gently sweat the mixture–covered–for 15 minutes.
  • Add the sweet potato and the ginger, mix it in and sweat–covered–for a further 15 minutes.
  • Season the mixture–keeping in mind that the stock will have salt in it.
  • Add the stock and cook it for another 10 minutes–uncovered.
  • Let the soup cool for a few minutes before liquidising it.
  • I use a hand-held liquidiser/blender.
  • Serve hot with a swirl of cream or yogurt on top.
  • Meredith thought a single piece of crispy bacon for each bowl would be good too–we’ll try that next time.

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The last few days have been unbelievably beautiful — warm, with soft golden light, and the leaves which have just begun to color slowly drifting to the ground. More of the same is predicted for tomorrow and the next day. Not really soup weather at all. However, cold and rainy weather is out there somewhere in our not too distant future and I look forward to making this again.

Exactly how I’m feeling–I found this quote by chance on a lovely looking site called Kitchenography– Life in my Kitchen.


Soup is what I’m feeling like tonight.

The days are summer days–the evenings and nights are autumn.

So that’s why I have a yen for soup–I understand–often you have to put it into words and then it becomes clear.

I’d bought some leeks and fennel and I’m starting with an onion.

for 2

1 medium onion–peeled and chopped

1lb/450 gms leeks–cleaned and chopped

1 medium fennel bulb–cleaned and chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pint/525 ml vegetable stock–I use an organic stock cube

  • Sweat the onion for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the leeks and fennel and sweat all three for ten minutes, covered, until they soften.
  • Season well with pepper and a little salt.
  • Add a pint of vegetable stock.
  • Simmer gently for twenty minutes.
  • Liquidise the soup and check the seasoning.
  • If you feel the soup is to thick add a little extra water.
  • Serve hot.

I topped it tonight with sautéed onion:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Half a medium onion–peeled and sliced thin

  • Sauté the onion in the oil until it is nicely browned.
  • Twirl a little on each bowlful of soup.

I put a sweet potato in the oven and we  had a half each after the soup with some new season broccoli.

[Which makes it a five vegetable meal to boot!!]

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This is taken from my book: Delicious Dishes for Diabetics which was published in August and is being reprinted–(hooray!).

Based on a recipe from Richard Olney’s Simple French Food, it’s useful company for pork or chicken. It can also serve as a vegetarian main course with some white beans or chickpeas.

The initial cooking helps to caramelize the fennel lightly–so it’s worth taking the time.

Serves 4

2 large or 4 medium fennel bulbs – tough outer part removed, cleaned up and quartered or cut into eighths, if the bulbs are very large

6 or more cloves of garlic – unpeeled, hooray!

3 tablespoons of olive oil 

salt and pepper 

6 tablespoons of water 

  • Put the fennel and the garlic in a pan large enough to hold all the quarters in a single layer.
  • Add the olive oil and a little salt.
  • Cook, uncovered, on a medium-low heat for 20 minutes, turning as the fennel colours–it should be nicely caramelized by the end.
  • Add the water, cover the pan and cook slowly until the fennel is super tender–about 30–40 minutes.
  • The quarters should hold their shape and be infused with a deliciously mild taste of the garlic.
  • Adjust the seasoning and serve.

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The “Food Pyramid” was an early post back in February.
In a campaign backed by the First Lady Michelle Obama, this has now been replaced (by the USDA — the American Department of Agriculture)  by “My Plate”.
The new icon sets out on “your plate”  –a guide to a healthy, balanced way of eating.
In principle anyway, it is simpler and more logical than the pyramid image–we eat off plates not pyramids–though I don’t find it visually pleasing.
Will its message get through?…
We have just finished lunch
and without intending to–it was stuff I found in the refrigerator– I ended up pretty much following the guidelines.
It was a Salad of:-      (protein, grain, vegetable, and dairy)
chickpeas (pg)–out of a tin or, as in my case, dried, soaked overnight, then simmered in water until tender
with thinly sliced/chopped fennel  (v)
some chunks of avocado (v)
a small cucumber, de-seeded and chopped (v)
thinly-sliced red onion (v)
small pieces of cooked chicken breast (p)
a few black olives (v)
some cubes of goats cheese with (dp)
chopped parsley (v)
with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing–oh and a few dry roasted (in a frying pan) pumpkin seeds(pv) scattered over, seasoned with salt and pepper.
And–we ate it off  plates!

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