Fennel & Potato Gratin

March 9, 2015

I used to be scared of cooking certain ingredients; I got anxious at the thought of cooking something I wasn’t familiar with. Foods like celeriac, kohlrabi and fennel were all alien to me and I resisted them for years. I shied away from the adventurous, instead sticking to the normal and safe ingredients from my inner ‘foodie’ comfort zone. That is until I discovered that actually, although it may look like it, celeriac isn’t an alien creature from outer space and neither is fennel! And you know what? They actually taste pretty good too. I learned that sometimes you just have to dive in and try things, something I wish I had learned earlier on in my culinary journey.

Fennel is such a versatile vegetable with a snappy crunch and a anise overtone – it can be used raw in salads, makes a great pickle for fish, can be a key ingredient in fantastic soups and can even be braised, steamed or in this case in a gratin. If you have never tried this vegetable, you really have to go and pick some up. I bought a decent sized piece for just 50p, which I’m sure would cost at least twice as much at the super market, a great deal considering you can use the whole thing with virtually no waste. I wanted to create a recipe for Easter seeing as it’s almost upon us, but instead of making the obligatory roast lamb I wanted something a bit different, something far simpler for those that don’t fancy tackling a large roast.

I designed this recipe as a main event – it is a hardy dish filled with potatoes and oozing with cream. When served with some steamed vegetables and glass of something you fancy, you won’t want anything else. However, the beauty of this recipe is it can be used as an ancillary to any large roast as well, making a great alternative to roast or dauphinoise potatoes. Another great thing about this dish is that you can get all of the fresh ingredients from the market! For an extra indulgency sprinkle with grated parmigiano reggiano from one of the award winning Food Hall’s cheese traders.

Ingredients

•  1.5kg Potatoes, I used desiree but maris piper or king edwards are great too
•  1 large fennel bulb
•  600ml double cream
•  300ml milk
•  2 fat juicy garlic cloves
•  ¼ tsp of freshly grated nutmeg
•  Salt and black pepper
•  Olive oil

Method

1. First peel the potatoes and using either a mandolin or a really sharp knife, slice the potatoes thinly, about as thick as a crisp. Place the slices of potato in a bowl of cold water to stop them going brown. Next slice the fennel bulb lengthways about a centimetre thick, no need to be too fussy just as long as you don’t have huge chunks it’s fine, reserve the fronds for garnish. Gently fry the sliced fennel in a pan with a touch of olive oil just so they take on a little colour and go slightly soft, then leave to one side.

2. Pour the milk and cream in to a saucepan and turn on a medium heat, bash the garlic cloves with the back of a knife, and add to the cream, chuck in any trimmings from the fennel if you have any. Add a pinch of salt, pepper and the nutmeg. Leave to simmer for about 20 minutes so all the flavours infuse through the cream, after which remove the garlic and fennel trimmings and discard.

3. To build the gratin take a suitable sized baking dish and start with a layer of potatoes, then sprinkle over about half the fennel, season the layer with salt and pepper then repeat until you finish with potato (make sure you season each layer otherwise it will be quite bland). Finally pour the infused cream over the top until it just comes under the top layer, season again with salt and pepper and bake in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 5/190°C for about an hour until the potatoes are tender and the top is golden and bubbling.

Garnish the top with the fennel fronds and Enjoy.

Adam-Garratt-Bio-Box