Yesterday I did more tidying up in the garden and cut down some dried fennel stems that had “Timber!”ed out of the border and across the path. I’ve loved picking off and nibbling one or two of their tiny seeds as I go past. You get an intense hit of liquorice as the seed splits between your teeth… If I close my eyes, that aromatic spicy-sweet licorice flavour takes me right back to childhood; wobbling home from the sweet shop with one hand steadying the Raleigh round the potholes, the other holding a Sherbet Dip.
Fennel seeds are much more grown up and healthier than Sherbet Dips… and are very different in make-up from licorice. They are a rich source of antioxidants and a concentrated capsule of multi-minerals. Click here to read more nutrition facts about fennel seeds.
Wondering why I had only used them ornamentally, I hung the stems upside down in the garage to have a think. Later in the week I’ll pop the seeds in the dehydrator to thoroughly dry out for storage.
I had some fresh cod planned for supper and wondered if fennel would go with it… Fennel isn’t something I’d normally associate with fish.
Well, isn’t Google a wondrous thing! Up came a list of recipes combining cod and fennel seeds (I’ve obviously been missing something!), and this one from a seasonal cooking blog called Saffron Lane caught my imagination. I loved the sound of fennel with thyme (all my thyme seedlings planted out in May have grown really well) and I had all the ingredients… Except the black olives, so instead I chopped up some soft prunes which I added to an accompanying couscous. Of course, the flavour is completely different to olives but they have that same middle eastern lilt that this recipe suggests. Tasted good too.
I’d also tidied up the leek beds earlier, taking out a couple that had flower shoots. I washed, trimmed and sliced them lengthways to remove the hard central ‘stalk’ and then sautéed the outer layers gently in a frying pan.
Instead of frying the cod (I had some laundry drying in the kitchen, and didn’t want it to smell of fish!), I decided to bake it gently on top of the hot leeks in the oven, with a loose piece of tin foil over the top to stop it drying out. It took about 15 minutes on gas 4. And instead of drizzling with the honey and lemon dressing at the end, I stirred that into the hot leeks before putting the dish in the oven.
The verdict? Fennel, thyme and cod go really well together. I imagine frying it into a crust would have intensified the flavours, so I’ll try that next time. If you’d like to try it, Click here to see the original recipe at Saffron Lane.
It’s spurred me on to seek out other recipes to make use of my fennel seed harvest…
What do you do with yours?