Fennel is a natural companion to fish.
With its tall, delicate fronds that look and taste delicious, fennel adds a wonderfully decorative quality to the kitchen. As this vegetable is such a natural companion to fish, I’ve come up with this light seafood stew that I hope you will make and enjoy over the summer months. Just add a glass of rosé and a beach!
Seafood, fennel and saffron stew (serves 4)
A splash of olive oil
1 fennel bulb
1 red onion
3 cloves garlic
100ml white wine
400g tin tomatoes
400g cook-from-frozen seafood selection (mine included squid rings, prawns, scallops and mussels)
500g bag microwaveable mussels in their shells
A generous pinch of saffron threads
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Cut the end off the fennel bulb, remove the core and reserve the green fronds for serving, then finely slice the remainder and fry it gently in a saucepan, with some olive oil, the garlic and sliced red onion. Cook until soft, but don’t allow to brown. Add the seasoning, pour in the white wine and simmer for a couple of minutes to reduce, before adding the saffron and the tomatoes and heating through.
Next, add the bag of mixed seafood and stir well until defrosted and heated through, then microwave the mussels and add them, again stirring well.
Fill bowls with the seafood stew and top with a teaspoon each of harissa and pesto, a squeeze of lemon and a grating of the zest, then serve with hunks of crusty bread to mop up the delicious juices.
More ways with fennel
Fennel-and-lemon spaghetti with crab (left)
Add 500g pasta to boiling water and cook until al dente. Mean- while, gently fry 2 thinly sliced fennel bulbs with a generous splash of olive oil, plus the zest and juice of 2 lemons. Simmer until reduced, then pour in 200ml single cream. Toss the cooked spaghetti in the sauce and divide between bowls. Top with a mound of white crabmeat and the fennel fronds and serve immediately.
Arrange 4 thinly sliced fennel bulbs, core removed, in a but- tered ovenproof dish. Pour a mixture of 50:50 chicken stock and white wine over it, cover with foil and bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a breadcrumb topping made by mixing 200g grated Parmesan, 200g fresh breadcrumbs, 50g butter and chopped parsley. Bake for a further 45 minutes, covering with foil again once the top has browned. Serve with pan-fried sea bass, salad leaves and a squeeze of lemon.
Crumbed fennel chips
Cut a fennel bulb into chip-like pieces. Dip them in plain flour, then beaten egg and finally in panko breadcrumbs. Heat a combination of butter and olive oil in a pan and fry the fennel chips until golden, top with salt and a little lemon juice, then serve immediately.