With a hint of sweetness, a crunch similar to celery, and a mild aniseed and refreshing flavour, fennel is an inherently unique winter vegetable. Adding fresh or cooked fennel (cooking mellows the aniseed flavour and enhances sweetness) to dishes such as a citrus and olive salad, a leek tart or roasting it with pork tenderloin, oregano and garlic, offers the plate a pleasing point of difference.
When considering fennel, we must go beyond the bulb. The opportunity to cook with fennel in March appeals to both our chefs and wine team as we consider the ingredient in its edible entirety: bulb, stalks, seeds and delicate fronds and yellow flowers.
As typical of all of our monthly menus, guests meet the hero ingredient in each course. In some plates, our diners in March will enjoy just a few lacy fennel fronds to garnish the dish, its seeds sprinkled atop house made bread or protein tenderised in a stock with fennel stalks and at other times the white bulb, raw and cooked, will play a prominent role in the degustation. Interestingly, eating a slice or two of raw, crunchy fennel acts as a digestive and palate cleanser and is often eaten simply like this in Italy – fennel seeds are known to have the same effect.
A tight, compact fennel bulb devoid of scuffs and discolouring is best. The bigger the bulb, the bigger the tough and fibrous core; which can be simply removed with a sharp knife.
Fellow seasonal ingredients such as citrus, mushrooms, potatoes, radicchio and watercress complement fennel wonderfully; plus almonds, anchovies, butter, capers, chicken and chicken stock lend well to this hardy, perennial herb. Fennel has a natural affinity for Parmesan cheese and is lovely served with pasta too, so as you can imagine, this month’s pasta course is shaping up to be a truly special and comforting one.
Reservations for our March menu open on Tuesday 3rd February 2015.