Tag Archives: Fennel

Pork (or lamb) and fennel tray bake – absolutely divine!

4 Sep

I love recipes that can be cooked in one pot or, like this one, in a roasting dish.  Cuts right down on washing up and the flavours seem to really enhance one another.  In this instance I used pork fillets, as suggested in the original recipe, but I think it would be great with lamb steaks as well, providing all fat is removed.  I was a bit worried about the fennel as I sometimes find it is a bit strong.  Didn’t need to though, I think the boiling made it more mellow and it was a perfect ingredient for this dish.

The rub for this is great, a hint of sweetness from the honey, some sour from the lemons and a bit of heat from the chilli.  I use chillies a lot in my cooking as my husband loves things with a bit of a kick.  Sometimes they are so subtle that the heat is barely noticeable, others they give real heat and depth to a dish.  I realised that I have not included any information on chillies in my previous blogs.  Very remiss of me but partially rectified today.  Here is a bit of chilli trivia to be going on with, courtesy of the foodreference and the Discovery Channel websites.

  • The seeds are NOT the hottest part of peppers. It is at the point where the seed is attached to the white membrane inside the pepper that the highest concentration of capsaicin (the compound giving peppers their pungent flavor) is found.
  • Capsaicin, the ‘hot’ constituent in chile peppers, is not water-soluble – it is soluble in fat and alcohol. So don’t drink water to cool your mouth after eating very hot chilies. Drink milk or beer, or eat some ice cream or guacamole if your mouth is on fire.
  • Hatch, New Mexico is known as the “Green Chile capital of the World”.
  • Scientists have found connections between capsaicin (the ingredient that makes chillies hot) and a component of tarantula venom.
  • Upon arrival in Mexico, some early Spanish priests, aware of the passion people had for chillies and unsure of its powers, assumed they were aphrodisiacs and in their sermons warned against consumption of food that was ‘as hot as hell’s brimstone’.
  • Eating chillies is addictive. When capsaicin comes in contact with the nerves in your mouth, pain signals are sent to the brain. Subsequently, the brain releases endorphins, natural painkillers, that create a feeling of well-being.
  • Indian tribes strung chillies together and tied them to their canoes to ward off evil spirits they believed might be lurking in the water

The original recipe is based on one from the Good Food website which I have adapted slightly.  Here is a link to the original recipe if you want to take a look.


Pork (or lamb) and fennel tray bake                            Serves 2 (easily doubled)

  • 4 medium red skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into medium chunks (about 1.5 inches)
  • 1 fennel bulb, core removed and cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 red onions, peeled and cut into 6 wedges each
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pork fillet, any fat or sinews removed, halved lengthways then widthways to give 4 pieces. If making with lamb use two large lamb steaks, fat removed.
  • 6 slices of preserved lemon, rinsed and flesh removed
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small red chilli, seeded (this will give medium heat so adjust to suit personal taste)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tbsp honey
  • small handful of fresh coriander
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.
  2. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the potatoes and fennel.  Bring back to the boil and cook for 2 minutes.  Drain well and dry on kitchen paper.
  3. Put the potatoes, fennel and onions in a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper.  Roast for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, put the lemon rinds, garlic, chilli, paprika, honey and coriander in a small chopper with 1 little olive oil (about 1 tbsp).  Chop until the lemon is finely chopped.  Rub the mix into the meat, coating well.  Season.
  5. When the vegetables have cooked for the 20 minutes, lay the meat on top and return to the oven for another 20 – 25 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are tender and slightly golden.  Serve immediately with a green vegetable if you have a mind to.

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Balti potatoes – my favourite side dish for a curry!

29 Apr

I have been making this side dish for a curry for years.  It was my Mum’s favourite.  Whenever she came down for the weekend, which was about twice a month, she would always ask for either a curry or a stir-fry.  She would never let me get away without making these potatoes if curry was on the menu.  They are quite spicy but you can calm them down a bit by putting in less chilli.  The recipe is for four people but I usually make extra as I find it is never enough.  Fennel seeds are one of the ingredients in this dish giving it a subtle but distinctive flavour.  I thought it would be good to find out a little more about this herb.

Fennel is part of the parsley family, and every part of the plant is edible.  Grown as a perennial in the Middle East and Europe, fennel has been harvested for hundreds of years.  If you have ever grown fennel you will know it is easy to cultivate but difficult to get rid of.  We had a plant in our herb garden and, years after we had pulled it up, we were still finding new fennel plants springing up in the most unlikely places.  Butterflies love it and I think the spread of the plant could be due to the seeds being spread by the butterflies and birds.

The slight licorice flavor of the herb complements sausages, fish and salads, making it popular in many cuisines.  The Greeks know it as maratho, named the herb after the famous Battle of Marathon, which was fought on a field of fennel.  It is used extensively to flavour their meats and stews. It is an ingredient in the Chinese 5 Spice powder and the Italians love to roast the bulbs in olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan or slice them raw in salads.  Fennel seeds are often used to add flavour to Italian sausages and they are a prime ingredient in some Indian cuisines.

Apart from the versatility of fennel in cooking, it has numerous medicinal properties.  Carminative properties of fennel are known from ancient times, as recorded in the Latin phrase “semen foeniculi pellit spiracula culi”, which literally means “the fennel seeds make blow the arsehole”.  Some may recognise the distinctive liquorice flavour in Gripe water, used to calm colic in babies, or in a cough linctus to calm the cough reflex.  In the Indian subcontinent, fennel seeds are eaten raw, sometimes with some sweetener, as they are said to improve eyesight.  Ancient Romans regarded fennel as the herb of sight. Root extracts were often used in tonics to clear cloudy eyes. Extracts of fennel seed have been shown in animal studies to have a potential use in the treatment of glaucoma.

Well, now we know fennel is great to have in the garden, lets look at the recipe.

Balti potatoes                                                    Serves 4

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 curry leaves
  • 1 scant tsp crushed dried red chillies
  • 1/4 tsp each of onion seeds, mustard seeds and fenugreek
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh root ginger
  • 2 onions sliced
  • 6 large new potatoes (to make about the equivalent amount of potato to onion when raw)  sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
  • small handful chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 red or green chilli, seeded and chopped finely
  1. Heat the oil in a wok.  Lower the heat slightly and add the cumin, curry leaves, dried chillies, onion, mustard and fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds, garlic and ginger.  Cook for about 1 minute or until the seeds start to pop then add the onions.  Cook gently for about 10 minutes or until the onions are soft and golden brown.
  2. Add the potatoes, coriander and green chilli.  Mix well, cover the pan and cook over a low heat for about 7 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

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