Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Fennel Soup

Fennel is one of those vegetables that I'm ambivalent about. I can't say I'm particularly enamoured with the flavour of aniseed, I'll pass on that glass of Pernod, though I absolutely love fennel seeds when they are teamed with pork in a traditional Italian sausage. I'll just have a little bit of that raw fennel salad but I'll have some more of those roasted ones. Raw it can be a bit harsh, roasted it's caramelised and sweet and the flavour is more complex.

So when it came time to make some Fennel soup, I decided I needed to bring out those roasted flavours, but I didn't want to darken the soup, I wanted to keep it light. So I opted for a slow stove-top sauté, to soften and draw out the sweetness but without the colour changing effects of an oven roasting. Keeping in the spirit of lightness, I've used leeks and instead of potatoes, I've gone for cannellini beans - an Italian companion of Fennel or Finocchio as it's called .

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Fennel Soup (Zuppa di Finocchio)

1 large fennel, trimmed and cut into chunks
1 leek, halved and cut into thick slices
2 garlic cloves, sliced finely
400g can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups stock or water
salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons cream, or more to taste
reserved fronds of fennel, finely sliced (choose the inner lighter green ones)

In a saucepan and over medium heat, drizzle in some oil and a knob of butter. When butter has melted add the prepared fennel, leek and garlic and stir well. Turn the head down and cook slowly - you want the vegetables to soften but not colour too quickly - the slow process, around 20 minutes, will draw out the natural sweetness of the vegetables.

Add the beans and two cups of stock or water, stir and continue to simmer for roughly 15 minutes or until the vegetables are breaking down.

Using an immersion blender, process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Add cream and process again.

Return the pan to a low heat (don't allow the soup to boil) and simmer until warmed through before serving.

If serving as a full sized portion I like to stir through the fresh fennel fronds through the soup. I like the look of the vibrant green specks against the pale cream coloured soup.

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If serving as an amuse or finger food, I'll garnish each small cup with the fennel fronds

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Oh, and what does it taste like? It has a lovely delicate flavour of fennel, it's very creamy, an effect of using the beans. All in all, I've found another reason to have fennel as a friend.

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2 comments:

  1. Beautiful pictures, Haalo!

    I love fennel and really appreciate your recipe for the soup. We mainly eat it raw either in salads or on its own drizzled with olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper.

    And I'm with you, fennel in a spicy sausage is a must!

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  2. Hi Ivonne and thank you for the lovely comments.
    Fennel and Pork is such a fantastic combination, like lamb and rosemary there's such a natural affinity.

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