I am writing this in early December, and I must have the last reasonable fennel bulb before Wintery cold weather comes again. Rather than make a salad from it, we thought that a fennel chutney would be nice. It is a quick chutney, one that you can eat almost immediately and will keep only a week or two in the fridge. The recipe is from Ottolenghi’s Guardian column.
We always regret not using Fennel enough. It seems to be a summery vegetable with that cooling aniseed taste, but in fact is difficult to find at decent prices once Winter is over – and by the end of Spring good fennel is definitely unavailable.
Fennel and Lemon Quick Chutney
3 Tblspn olive oil
1 Tblspn fennel seeds
2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed (300g net weight), cut in half lengthways, then widthways into 1-2mm-thick slices (use a mandoline to make easy work of this)
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
25g soft dark brown sugar
1 lemon, peel shaved off in 3 wide strips (avoid the bitter white pith)
1 tspn chilli flakes (or to taste)
2 Tblspn currants
3 Tblspn white wine vinegar
sea salt, to taste
In a large saucepan for which you have a lid, heat the oil on a medium flame, then toast the fennel seeds, stirring, for 30 seconds, until fragrant and starting to brown.
Add the fennel, onion, sugar, lemon peel, half the chilli flakes and 0.5 tspn salt, and fry for 8 – 9 minutes, stirring often, until the fennel softens.
Add the currants and 350ml water, turn the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring now and then. Remove the lid and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often, until thick and glossy.
Add the vinegar and remaining chilli, and cook for a final 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Leave to cool before serving. Best if left for a few hours to develop its flavours.