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The trick (well, it’s hardly a trick) to getting this lovely, summery dish just right is to cover the tray while it has that initial cooking time in the oven. This keeps all the steam inside, which helps to tenderise the fennel and potatoes beautifully. Then, it’s just a question of uncovering and caramelising the vegetables before you serve them. I like to spoon over a bright green and garlicky basil pesto, but dots of a fiery harissa would work well, or even a salty tapenade or lemony mayonnaise.
4 Fennel Bulbs
500g (1lb 2oz) New Potatoes, scrubbed, then halved if large
2tsp Fennel Seeds, crushed
Finely Grated Zest of 1 Lemon
3-4 Thyme Sprigs, leaves stripped
2tbsp Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
For the Pesto
40g (1.5oz) Sunflower Seeds
1 Small Garlic Clove
75g (2.5oz) Mature Cheddar or Hard Goat's Cheese, finely grated
Good Pinch of Fine Sea Salt
1 Large Handful of Basil
100ml (3.5fl oz) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
First, make the pesto. Place a dry frying pan on a medium heat. Add the sunflower seeds and cook, stirring regularly, for a few minutes, until the seeds are toasted and fragrant. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Place the cooled, toasted seeds in a food processor with the garlic, cheese and salt. Pulse until you have a fairly fine-ish consistency. Throw in the basil and pulse until well chopped, then gradually add the oil. When everything is combined to a nice, even texture, check the seasoning and spoon the pesto out into a bowl. Set aside while you make the vegetables.
Trim the hard base from the fennel and trim the stalk tops back. Cut the bulbs into eighths and place them in a roasting tin with the potatoes, crushed fennel seeds, and the lemon zest and thyme. Trickle over the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Cover the dish tightly with foil and place in the oven to roast for 1 hour, then remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 25–30 minutes, or until the potatoes and fennel look golden and delicious and are beginning to crisp around the edges. Spoon everything out onto a warm serving platter or dish and dot over the pesto before serving.
Published by Quadrille Books