‘It's all things to all people’ says Liz Hemphill in Sticks, Seeds, Pods & Leaves. ‘You want a vegetable, a herb, a spice, a garnish? Then fennel’s the one for you.’ First of all you can slice or dice the bulb and stems and use them raw in salads or whole as a scoop with dips. They are just as delicious cooked – added to soups, casseroles and stir fries, or serve as a side dish baked, sauteed or lightly steamed. Then as a herb, you can use the feathery fronds which resemble dill with baked fish. And if that’s not enough, as a spice you can add the aromatic seeds with their light anise flavour (sparingly we suggest) to a variety of dishes from curries to meat loaf, tomato dishes or even savoury biscuits. You’ll find a couple of delicious dishes the make the most of fennel in previous issues of GI News. – Tangy roast beet and walnut salad (May 2007) and Tuna, bean, olive and fennel salad (November 2007).
Fennel is a great way to help you get those five serves of veggies a day. The bulb is a serious contender in the versatile veggie competition. Not only is it delicious whatever you do with it, it’s also big on volume, small on kilojoules and full of fibre. It is a very good source of vitamin C, folate, potassium and manganese and provides some calcium and iron. It also contains a fascinating phytonutrient called anethole – the primary component of its volatile oil. In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer.
Tuna and fresh fennel stew
This recipe from Sticks, seeds, Pods & Leaves is for the serious ‘fennelophile’
2 bulbs fennel, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 x 400 g (14 oz) can whole tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves
1/4 cup continental parsley
1 generous strip lemon rind
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup white wine
450 g (1 lb) fresh tuna, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 cup (250 ml) fish stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fennel leaves
Combine the fennel, onion, garlic and oil in a large pan and cook over moderate heat, stirring frequently until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the bay leaves, parsley, lemon rind and juice and the wine and simmer for about 20 minutes. Just before serving, add the tuna and simmer until cooked, about 3–4 minutes. Transfer the tuna and vegetables to a bowl with a slotted spoon and reduce the liquid by about a third. Discard the bay leaves and lemon rind and return the tuna and vegetables to the pan. Heat through, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the fennel leaves and serve the stew with sourdough bread to mop up the sensational juices.