Fennel, Ratatouille, Tomato

Caramelised Fennel/Egg Plant/Ratatouille/Slow Poached Tomato.


Came across this recipe the other day, sounds a bit Ottolenghi  to me, but none the less delicious.


Fennel is one of those things that looks so damn good you feel that you must be eating it for the utter sophistication and jolly hocky sticks good health, look a me I am just back from the Med, sporting moment. It has eye appeal, multiple ticks of approval from food Mafia, in fact sort of sits in the same high esteem as Eggplant. Two vegetables that are derigeur for any serious would be or fully formed cook. The secret is how.


On occasions I have struggled with cooking both the above veg, I have of course eaten it often, what else could I do? No self respecting foodie would do less. Have I always eaten them with joy, no that I cannot claim, there have been times when the Eggplant in particular did not appeal, too oily, too salty or too mushy. I am still on the hunt for the perfect Aubergine recipe… dipped in breadcrumb, fried and then napped with a gorgeous lush tomato sauce redolent with herbs and garlic will do the trick I think.


Fennel is also know as Finnocchi in the Med, should you want to ponce it up. Everybody eats it, relentlessly, devouring kilos of the stuff. So many ways to cook it or eat it raw! The bulb itself comes in a variety of sizes and the plant has just two types, one the vegetable the other is grown for the herb and the seed. The bulb needs to be well trimmed, as it ages, the outer layers of the bulb can be tough and discoloured and should be removed. The leafy feathery top needs removing.(keep a little for the final zooshing of the dish) Use a small sharp knife and remove the inner core from the bottom of the bulb. The bulb is usually then sliced into a 15 mm slice and it is ready for cooking or eating.


The taste of Fennel is a mild aniseed crunch that goes well with all other vegetables. They can be roasted, fried, or used in casserole, stews or braises. The following recipe is particularly good, a great accompaniment to fish, but not shy of being paired with chicken. (should you be lucky enough to locate any chicken that actually tastes like chicken as opposed to cardboard).


1 large bulb of fennel trimmed as above and sliced.

1 large red onion sliced in the same size as the fennel.

125 grams of butter

splash of olive oil

Juice of one lemon and rind of same

1 level dessertspoon brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste


Melt the butter in a large frying pan add the oil and allow to sizzle. Add the onion and begin to fry, when a little colour has been achieved, add the fennel and continue to fry, as the vegetables begin to brown and soften, add the sugar and allow the onion and fennel to become quite dark and caramelised. Add the lemon rind and cook a little, add the lemon juice off heat and season with salt and pepper. If you want, scatter a bit of parsley or some of the dill tops.





Ratatouille is one of those dishes that has options, not options with regard to ingredient, that is constant, more in the way it is cooked. The main ingredients are good sweet ripe Tomato, Red Onion, Bell Pepper (known in France as Poivron, most will go for Green), Egg Plant (Aubergine), Zucchini, Olive Oil, 2 – 3 cloves of garlic chopped (optional – tomato paste and herb choice, most go for Thyme but this is a Provencal dish, so Herb de Provence is also a good choice , squeeze of lemon juice).  The three cooking methods are as follows.


You should have about double the tomato to other vegetables, the onion should be 2. If you have been clever and bought small ripe tomato, then leave them whole. Onions should be cut into 2 cm squares, Peppers should be likewise, the Egg Plant should be about 3 cm square and  to 1.5 cm dice. The Zucchini I prefer in reasonably hearty 3 cm wedges of the whole. The Olive Oil must be a good EVO as you are going to consume it.


The four pot method… take four pans, saucepans. In saucepan one, add olive oil and cook the tomatoes until they beginning to give their juice, put aside. In saucepan 2, put some olive oil and fry the bell pepper until they are cooked through, but not completely wilted, put aside. In saucepan 3, add EVO and cook the Egg Plant to desired doneness, I don’t like it going mushy, put aside. In pan 4, add evo and on a hot gas fry the Zucchini, put aside.


Take the largest of your pots and empty the contents into one of the other cooked vegetables, place on the heat with EVO add the garlic, onion and fry until the onion and garlic are semi cooked, but not wilted. Add a good heaped desert spoon of Tomato Paste and fry this with the onion and garlic, add the fried tomato and allow to melt together, add then the rest of the vegetables and cook for just a minute or so to amalgamate. Salt and Black Pepper to taste and a good squeeze of lemon juice off the heat and allow to stand before eating. Many like this reheated lightly the next day, I prefer it on the day of cooking at room temperature. I love it with crusty bread or baguette.


The quick method is to use one large pan and cook all at the same time, this method produces a dish that is mushy and the individual flavours lost.


The third method is roasting, it involves placing all ingredients in a roasting tray, a liberal dressing of oil, some fresh herbs and roasting in a 180 Celsius oven for 45 minutes, allow to cool, season to taste and pile onto a serving plate. Often a splash of red wine vinegar is used.


Of the methods, I prefer the one that gives the most flavour of individual components, I like just a splash of red wine vinegar, and I prefer it to be eaten at room temperature.





Very Slow Poached Tomato.


From the South of France, a delicious way of eating ripe sweet tomato. Use the small tomatoes you buy on the stems, I used two packs, chop up some garlic into slices and slice some brown shallots thinly, take a sharp knife and stab each tomato. Use one cup of very good olive oil, place all in a pan and very very gently cook for about 25 minutes. The tomatoes should be still holding there shape, but just beginning to give up their juices. Allow the mix to cool to room temperature and crush it on griddled bread. A little tapenade and a leaf or two of basil are great.






~ by peterwatson on July 25, 2017.

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