This recipe for a blue-cheese fennel gratin comes from Janet Wynne Evans who says it's a great way of using up this vegetable which, much to her astonishment is often to be found in the reduced section of shops and supermarkets. Their loss is our gain!
Blue-Cheese Fennel Gratin
For two people as a side-dish or starter. Size up for a main course or more mouths to feed.
- 1 chunky fennel bulb
- A tablespoon of aniseedy herbs like tarragon or dill, washed and finely chopped
- 60g mild blue cheese, such as dolcelatte or gorgonzola dolce
- 20g freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
- 25g butter
- 20g (see below) dry breadcrumbs
- salt and black pepper
A small, round gratin dish, measuring about 16cm in diameter and 3cm deep is the perfect fit here. If your dish has a slightly smaller or larger surface area, adjust the quantity of breadcrumbs. Think of these as a sprinkling of crunch, not a thick topping.
Put a pan of water on to boil while you trim the fennel. Slice off the top stems, keeping a few fronds for decoration. Cut in half through the root, then into eight wedges. Finally, peel away any scrotty outer leaves and tough, woody or brown root extremities.
Pause for thought: discard the bits of root, but keep all the other unappealing but flavour-packed trimmings for stocks and casseroles.
Salt the boiling water generously and add the fennel wedges. Give them exactly 5 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold water and dry thoroughly with kitchen paper.
Arrange the wedges in one layer in your chosen gratin dish. Top with the fronds and the chopped herbs. Season sparingly with salt and generously with pepper.
Pinch, grate or finely cube the blue cheese, depending on how hard it is. Push as much of it as possible into any spaces between the fennel wedges and scatter the rest over the top. Dot with the butter.
Scatter the Parmesan over the surface and veil with the breadcumbs. The dish is now ready to roll. If you're not, cover with clingfilm and store it in the fridge until you are, and for a day or so if necessary.
Set the oven at 190C/Gas 5. Bake for 30 minutes until brown and bubbling.
Serve with lean meat (like leg of lamb or steak), grilled salmon or just on its own.
A white Cape blend or off-dry Loire chenin is the glass of choice.