Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese

GC loved this recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty. I’ve never cared much for fennel’s taste of black licorice, but this recipe is really lovely. The secret is also to use really high-quality goat cheese.

When buying fennel, look for firm, white bulbs with bright green stalks and leaves. Flowering is a sign that the bulbs were picked too late. Also, make sure to clean it really well, as dirt can get trapped inside the layers of the bulb.

Ingredients

4 small fennel bulbs
3½ tbsp. unsalted butter
3 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra to finish
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. fennel seeds
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
3/4 cup roughly chopped dill (leaves and stalks)
5 oz. young and creamy goat cheese
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Preparation
  1. Start by preparing the fennel bulbs. First take off the leafy fronds and keep them for the garnish. Then slice off some of the root part and remove any tough or brown outer layers, making sure the base still holds everything together. Cut each bulb lengthways into ½-inch thick slices.
  2. Melt half the butter with half the oil in a large frying pan placed over high heat. When the butter starts to foam, add a layer of sliced fennel. Do not overcrowd the pan and don’t turn the fennel over or stir it around in the pan until one side has become light golden, which will take about 2 minutes. Remove from the pan. Continue with the rest of the fennel, using up the remaining butter and oil.
  3. Once all the fennel has been seared, add the sugar, fennel seeds and plenty of salt and pepper to the pan. Fry for 30 seconds, then return all the fennel slices to the pan and caramelize them gently for 1 to 2 minutes. They need to remain firm inside so just allow them to be coated in the melting sugar and seeds. Remove the fennel from the pan and leave to cool down on a plate.
  4. To serve, toss the fennel in a bowl with the garlic and dill. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Arrange on a serving platter and dot with spoonfuls of goat cheese. Finish with a drizzle of oil and a scattering of lemon zest. Garnish with the fennel fronds. Serve at room temperature.
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