I've been a fennel-hater for as long as I can remember. In fact anything with a vaguely aniseed/anise flavour is completely off the menu as far as I'm concerned - liquorice, sambuca, tarragon, ouzo, pernod.... a sad state of affairs.
However, I had a bit of a fennel revelation whilst on a 'Flavours of Sicily' cookery course at the Vegetarian Society some years ago. We braised fennel slowly in stock with onions, garlic and all sorts of other lovely things and somehow it ended up being absolutely delicious and not overpoweringly aniseed-y.
Since then I've experimented with various other ways of cooking it, and the one I've featured in this Minted Bulgur Wheat with Fennel & Apple recipe is always a winner - simply roasted until golden and slightly crispy at the edges. It still has anise overtones but most of all is caramel-sweet with a bit of crunch.
Here I've combined it with some of my favourite things to eat on a hot summers day - feta, apple, spring onions, deliciously nutty bulgur wheat, broad beans and peas, and a mint & parsley dressing. Such a great supper in its own right, or a knockout salad to serve alongside a BBQ or buffet.
(I should point out that the serving in the photos was in fact for 4, whilst the recipe serves 2 - don't be fooled!).
Minted Bulgur Wheat with Fennel & Apple
- 1 bulb of fennel
- 2 tbsp oil (rapeseed, olive or whatever you have to hand)
- 250 g bulgur wheat
- 500 ml vegetable stock
- 75 g broad beans (podded weight fresh or frozen)
- 75 g peas (podded weight fresh or frozen)
- large handful mint leaves
- large handful parsley
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 3 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
- 1 apple, cored and finely sliced
- 100 g feta cheese (check it is vegetarian)
- Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas Mark 4. Slice the fennel bulb in half through the root, then slice each half as finely as you can. Place on a baking tray, then drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until tender and starting turn a deep brown at the edges. Set aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, place the bulgur wheat and vegetable stock a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer. After 5 minutes, add the peas and broad beans. Cook over a low heat for a further 10 minutes or until the stock has been absorbed and the bulgur wheat is cooked, (it should still have some bite and a nutty flavour). Season with salt and black pepper, then remove from the heat and set aside.
- Next, whizz together the mint, parsley, olive oil, vinegar and mustard in a small blender (or chop finely and whisk together by hand in a bowl).
- To serve, stir the herby dressing through the bulgur wheat. Sprinkle over the apple slices, then the spring onions, crumble over the feta, and top with the roasted fennel.
Make it Vegan: Just omit the feta. How about adding some almonds or pine nuts to boost the protein content?