caramelised fennel

Works with fish or roast chicken.

To make it more provencal, I’d probably substitute white wine vinegar for the cider vinegar, and might even give it a slosh of pastis. Or perhaps use some quince juice if I had some open. Although we mainly use olive oil for cooking, using butter here helps the caramelisation

From Delia again


4 medium-sized heads fennel
1 oz (25 g) butter
1 rounded teaspoon granulated sugar
10 fl oz (275 ml) medium cider
2 fl oz (55 ml) cider vinegar
pinch salt

You will need a wide saucepan with a lid, of about 9-10 inches (23-25.5 cm) in diameter, into which the trimmed fennel will fit snugly.

To prepare the fennel bulbs, first cut off the leafy fronds and reserve them for a garnish. Now trim off the green shoot by cutting diagonally to make a V-shape. Then slice off the root part at the other end, keeping the bulb intact, and remove any tough or brown outer layers, then slice across each bulb to cut it in half.

Then place the fennel in a fan steamer set in the saucepan with 1 inch (2.5 cm) of boiling water under it. Cover and steam for 10 minutes, then remove them from the steamer, throw out the water, wipe the inside of the pan with kitchen paper and return it to the heat.

Next melt the butter and sugar in the saucepan and when it starts to foam, stir it around the pan until the sugar dissolves, then add the fennel, cut side down. Keeping the heat fairly high, brown it for 5 minutes, then turn the pieces over and brown them on the other side for another 3 minutes.

Now combine the cider, cider vinegar and a little salt, and pour this into the pan; then, keeping the cut side of the fennel facing upwards, cover with a lid and simmer gently for 20 minutes. After that turn the fennel over again. Then continue to cook for a further 20-25 minutes (this time uncovered). Watch carefully during the last 10 minutes and test to see if it is cooked by inserting a skewer.

When the fennel is tender enough, raise the heat so that the remaining juices reduce to a glaze. Shake the pan carefully to give an even covering of the caramel glaze. Now transfer the whole lot to a warm serving dish with the cut surfaces upwards and scatter with the chopped fennel fronds as a garnish.

This recipe is taken from Delia Smith’s Winter Collection.

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