In this recipe, fennel bulbs are cooked a la Grecque in olive oil and lemon juice until very tender and falling apart. They are then whizzed into the most beautiful puree, perfect for spreading, eating as it is, using as a dressing on salads or hot vegetables, or serving as part of a larger meal.
The puree has a wonderful mayonnaise type texture so it acts amazingly well as a dressing over salads, or over baked or steamed vegetables.
This dish comes from Italy, and it is the Italians who seem to use fennel the most. At one time, it was popular at the end of a meal, a delicious way to cleanse the palate. Parts of Tuscany still do this, I hear. The best salad is still fennel, sliced thinly and dressed with olive oil, salt and lemon juice. Just perfect. This dish retains those flavours but cooks the fennel to a soft and gentle puree.
You can also browse all of our Fennel dishes, and all of our Puree recipes. You might like to check out our Dressings, Spreads and Dips too, and all of our Italian dishes. Or take some time and explore our Mid Winter menus.
Beautiful Fennel Puree
4 fennel bulbs, finely sliced and green fronds reserved
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
juice of 0.5 medium sized lemon
0.5 tspn turmeric powder
100 ml good quality olive oil
0.5 small red chilli
1 piece of orange zest
sea salt and freshly ground white or black pepper
Preheat the oven to 140C. Place the fennel and garlic in a heavy oven-proof saucepan with the lemon juice, olive oil, chilli, turmeric powder and orange zest.
Heat on the stove-top and when it begins to bubble well, cover with a close fitting lid (or fashion one out of foil). Place in the oven and bake for 1.5 hours. By now the fennel should be completely soft and broken down.
Remove the chilli, if you wish, and stir in the reserved fronds. After cooling for 10 minutes, blend in batches to a smooth puree.
Taste and adjust seasoning as required. Use warm or room temperature.
You can eat it as it is, spread it on toast or crumpets, use it as a dressing on salads or hot vegetables, a dip or spread or serve it as part of a larger meal. It can be dolloped onto soups, drizzled onto chickpea pancakes, and drizzled over a tofu scramble. Serve a little on the side of sauteed mushrooms.
recipe notes and alternatives
One of my friends loves to make this without pureeing, and serves the fennel as a side dish.
Add some tahini and adjust lemon and garlic when blending for a lovely alternative.
Use the puree as a mayonnaise type dressing in any salad. Thin with a little cream, milk, lemon juice or water if necessary.