7 November 2010

Ottolenghi's Fennel, Cherry Tomato & Crumble Gratin

All cooked and gloriously lovely

"Ottolenghi" seems to be taking up pole position for the word which gets bandied about in conversations the most here, at the moment.

You know how some styles of cuisine just hit you right between the eyes as being just beyond brilliant and totally in accord with the way you'd like to be able to cook?  Well that's Ottolenghi for me.

I had spotted this recipe when I first browsed through "The Cookbook" as it seemed a) achievable financially and b) achievable where the cooking was concerned.  I have to be careful which recipes I choose, as I just don't have the stamina in my legs for recipes that have you galloping all over the kitchen for hours.  Hence, I particularly like recipes that demand input at the beginning, then you get a rest while they're in the oven, with a final burst of activity prior to plating up - which hubby gets to do, while I give my back a rest and compose myself.  Otherwise I'm just too stressed, what with the pain, finishing the dish and making sure the plating up happens neatly, to eat comfortably.

Aaaanyway, all that aside, this is by far and away the most delicious fennel dish I have ever had the good fortune to encounter.  The juxtaposition of the savoury fennel with its creaminess and hints of garlic and thyme, set against the sweet but cheesy crumble, is just amazing.  Hubby really really liked this dish and would be very happy to see it appear on the menu list again really quite soon.  Son was rather less committed to it, but then he doesn't like cooked tomatoes, which were integral to the character of the dish.  However, to give him his due, he did eat it all - which says quite a bit about it's acceptability.

Halfway through cooking : just added crumble and tomatoes
I have tweaked the recipe's quantities, as the original recipe was designed to feed 6.  Also, the fennel bulbs we managed to find didn't, unfortunately, have any of their fluffy fennel tops left on or I would have sprinkled a little of that, chopped, onto the top of the gratin instead of parsley, before serving.


Ingredients :

2 Fennel bulbs, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed
coarse sea salt
black pepper
200ml double cream
enough crumble to cover
50g Parmesan cheese, grated
150g cherry tomatoes – on the vine if possible
1 tsp chopped parsley to garnish

Method :

1.  Preheat oven to 200degC/Gas mark 6.   Trim off the fennel stalks and cut each bulb lengthways in half.  Cut each half into slices.  Place in a large bowl with the olive oil, thyme leaves, garlic, salt & pepper and toss together.

2.  Transfer to an ovenproof dish and pour the cream over the fennel.

3.  Mix the crumble with the grated parmesan and scatter evenly on top.

4.  Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove the foil and arrange the tomatoes on top.  Scatter a few fresh thyme springs on top and return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.

5.  Fennel should feel soft when poked with a knife & gratin should have a golden colour.

6.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes then sprinkle with chopped parsley prior to serving.


  1. In fact, to say that I really, really liked this dish is a bit of a masterpiece of understatement.

    At the ripe old age of *ahem - coff* it is rare to encounter a brand new taste sensation but thats exactly what this fennel dish presented.

    I can easily equate my delight with the kind of pleasurable surprise that one might encounter at a top end restaurant. If you fancy a treat one evening, give this recipe a go. I can see it going equally well with fish or bacon / gammon as with stuffed peppers.

  2. Yes, I should have included that in the piece above - that I felt it's best partner would have been a lovely piece of gammon either grilled or roasted. Fish would be lovely too, but not an oily fish as I think that would be too rich for most people's tummies!

  3. I made his barley risotto and I have to say I was mega impressed with the recipe; this is another one that looks great......must try this too!


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