Oven-baked Fennel With Anchovy, Rosemary and Honey Topping and Bay Leaf Potatoes
Fennel is not a universally loved vegetable but it has a rich and illustrious history. I like it a lot but then there are few vegetables that I don’t like so it doesn’t really mean much. But fennel has a special place in my heart, I was introduced to it by my mother who lovingly served in the most simple way: cooked with melted, salted butter drizzled over it. Delicious. It wasn’t until I started to visit Italy I discovered raw fennel, here you often eat it as a salad with or without additions. We eat it thinly sliced with a little lemon juice, black pepper, salt and extra-virgin olive oil. Sometimes I add grated carrot and sometimes I add the fennel to a green salad, the faint anisee flavour , so characteristic of raw fennel, is very fresh and works wonders in salads.
Fennel bulbs are beautiful, that mix between white and light green is so fresh and calming to the eye. The striped milky white of the bulb topped with the green lace of the leaves has a lightness to it that few other vegetables have, I can’t even think of one right now, and it is a pure pleasure to photograph, at least in its raw state because when you cook fennel, it goes through a total transformation and changes both colour and texture. I suspect that this might be the main reason to why people don’t much like cooked fennel, it doesn’t look good but it only teaches us to look beyond appearances and to try reach that inner essence of things (and people though I have to confess that there are several, no, many public individuals in whom I just can’t see that essence or if it is there, it is very well hidden), to find the beauty of the fennel. Or at least try.
If you don’t brim over with fondness for cooked fennel, I think this simple recipe might change your opinion. The anchovy and rosemary gives a distinct flavour while the honey adds depth and roundness. I threw in one of my favourite potato recipes as a bonus even though it has appeared here before. I know I am fortunate to live in a place where I only have to step outside my garden gate to get fresh bay leaves but if you can, use fresh ones, if not you take dried ones which should work as well. The bay leaves gives a sweet flavour to the potatoes that I love and they looks so pretty with the leaves peeping out.
2 large fennel bulbs
3 anchovy fillets
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped finely
1 tsp runny honey
4-5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Trim the fennel bulbs and divide in length wise and if you want you can do like I did, make a few extra cuts to let the topping seep down into the fennel.
Chop the anchovy fillets and put in a small bowl, add rosemary, honey and olive oil and mix well.
Put the bulbs in an oven-proof form, drizzle olive oil over, sprinkle with salt and then spoon the anchovy topping on top. Bake in a pre-heated oven (175°C/350°F) for around 30 minutes or until golden and soft.
BAY LEAF POTATOES
not too big potatoes
a lot of bay leaves, preferably fresh ones
extra-virgin olive oil
Peel the potatoes or don’t but do make four cuts into each potato, not too deep, only 3/4. Fill each cut with a bay leaf. If you don’t have that many and they are large, you can put half a leaf instead.
Put the potatoes in an oven-proof form, drizzle olive oil over, sprinkle with salt and then bake in a pre-heated oven (175°C/350°F) for around 30 minutes or until golden and soft.