finocchio con latte (fennel cooked in milk)

Fennel and I have a love hate relationship. It’s not a common vegetable in Australia. In fact, the first time I ate it was here in the Maremma Tuscany at school of all places. I was teaching English at the local kindergarten and they had the best canteen lunches! Jamie Oliver eat your heart out. Homecooked pastas as starters and meat and vegetables for mains.

Since everything was seasonal, fennel was a heavy feature on the menu throughout the winter months. First bite – I hated it. It tasted like liquorice and I hate liquorice. In Italy, it’s mostly served raw as a salad, so I experimented with drowning it in balsamic vinegar (yep, the kindergarten canteen had balsamic vinegar). That made it palatable, but it also made the lunch lady super angry because I supposedly used so much vinegar, it stained my plates. She made me eat with plastic plates from then on.

That was almost a decade ago and fennel at I are on speaking terms now. Honestly, these days, I prefer it cooked, so when I found this gorgeous recipe, I was hooked.

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The fennel is from my father-in-law’s garden, but the recipe is a traditional Tuscan offering that is so easy, you could whip it up on a weekday and impress.

YOU’LL NEED:

1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
250ml single cream
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Divide your fennel over four ramekins or pudding dishes.

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Mix the cream, garlic and half of the parmesan in a jug. Season with salt and pepper and pour evenly over the fennel. Pop in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

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Mix the breadcrumbs and remaining parmesan in a small bowl and sprinkle over the cooked fennel. Turn your oven to its grill setting and grill the pots for 5 minutes or until golden and toasted on top. Serve with steak or if you’re feeling vegie, a nice salad.

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This recipe would be gorgeous with potatoes, cabbage or swede too.

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