Saturday 17 September 2011

Baked Fennel with Tomatoes and Olives

This is a fabulous dish to serve for dinner when you are having friends round.  It can be prepared well in advance, then baked when you're ready and it never seems to mind hanging around in the oven a little longer than necessary!

Not only that, the flavour of the fennel is so delicious and a little out of the ordinary.  It goes well as a side dish with fish, or as a main course with pasta or simply as an accompaniment to other vegetables.

For this recipe, I usually blanch the fennel in boiling water to speed up the baking time.  If you don't have fresh ripe tomatoes, use a well drained tin of plum tomatoes instead.

Ingredients            Serves 4

2 medium bulbs fennel
350g tomatoes
50g pitted black olives
2 cloves garlic 
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
About half a tbsp fresh thyme


Wash the fennel and trim away the feathery fronds to use as a garnish.  

Slice a thin layer from the base and remove any outer layers that are discoloured.    Quarter the fennel bulbs, then cut each quarter in half. 

Cook in boiling salted water until just tender  - this usually takes about 10 minutes. Remove the fennel from the pan with a slotted spoon, reserving the cooking water.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/Gas Mark 7.

Place the drained fennel in a single layer in a shallow gratin dish. 

Then place the tomatoes in the hot fennel water to remove the skins. After a minute, transfer the tomatoes to a chopping board using a slotted spoon.  The skins should peel away easily.

Leave the tomatoes whole if you are using the cherry variety or cut into quarters if they are larger.  Scatter the tomatoes and the black olives over the top of the fennel.  

Peel and finely chop the garlic and sprinkle over the vegetables, together with the thyme.  Add a good seasoning of salt and pepper.

Finally, drizzle with olive oil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Halfway through the cooking time,  baste the fennel with the juices in the dish.

Serve as a side dish with fish,  as a main course with pasta or simply as an accompaniment to other vegetables.

Saturday 10 September 2011

Courgette and Pepper Provençal

My vegetable plot has been taking up much of my spare time this summer which is why it's been a while since I posted a recipe! A bumper crop of vegetables have passed through my kitchen over the past few months, most of which have been eaten in their simplest form - freshly picked, steamed, baked or lightly fried and always savoured!

However, now I'm back with fresh enthusiasm, ready to share some more of my favourite recipes which I hope you'll enjoy as much as we do.   

This is a lovely versatile dish that I often make in late summer when there are plenty of courgettes and tomatoes to use up.  It goes well with pasta, couscous or potatoes, with grilled fish or vegetable burgers,  in a baked shortcrust pastry case or served with puff pastry triangles.  It's also just as good eaten cold. 

Ingredients        Serves 4

1 large onion
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
2 courgettes
About 450g fresh tomatoes
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp fresh basil leaves

First skin your tomatoes. Place them in a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover.

After about a minute, remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place on your chopping board.  The skins should slip off easily.  Roughly chop.

Peel and chop the onion.  Heat the olive oil in a wide saute pan and cook the onion gently without browning, stirring frequently for about five minutes until tender.  

Peel and crush the garlic and stir in.  

Cut the peppers in half and remove the stalks and seeds.  Cut into slices about 1cm wide and add to the pan. 

Cover with a lid and cook for about five minutes.  By covering with a lid at this point, I find it allows the peppers to start to soften in the hot steam.

Cut the courgettes in half lengthways, then into slices about 1cm thick and add to the pan together with the chopped tomatoes.  Stir well and season with salt and pepper.  

Bring to the boil, then turn the heat to low and cook gently without covering, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes,  by which time most of the juice from the tomatoes will have reduced and the vegetables are cooked. 

Crush the coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar.

Add to the pan with the chopped basil and simmer for a further ten minutes until you have a delicious mixture of cooked vegetables coated in a rich tomato sauce.

To serve, sprinkle a few fresh basil leaves sprinkled on top.