Fennel gives curries, fish and bread a sweet, nutty, aniseed character.
By
The Roo Sisters

9 Aug 2013 - 2:49 PM  UPDATED 27 May 2015 - 4:03 PM

Origins

In ancient Greece, the fennel plant was known as “marathon” because it grew at the famous battle site and, over time, it came to symbolise strength and victory. It’s still a champion today, and not just because it’s so hardy that it grows freely in countless countries (and is considered an invasive weed in Australia). Fennel prevails in cuisines the world over, giving a sweet, nutty and aniseed character to dishes ranging from curries and fried fish to sausages, breads and sweets. Foeniculum vulgare (“common little hay”) is a perennial from the family that includes parsley and dill, and is indigenous to the Mediterranean. Having been spread throughout Europe during the Roman Empire, it’s now also grown in South Africa, India, China, Australasia, South-East Asia, the East Indies and the Americas. The whole plant is eaten, the dried seeds having a more concentrated aniseed or licorice flavour than the rest. Less than 1 cm long, thin, curved and ranging from brown to light green (the latter best for cooking), they are warm-tasting, mildly licorice and aromatic. Toasting gives fennel seeds a sweeter, nuttier character.

 

Use fennel seed in …

fish, pork or vegetable curries, bouillabaisse, dhal, potato salad, mayonnaise, chutneys, breads, in pasta with crumbled, pan-fried pork sausage, on grilled fish or crushed with garlic to coat pork for roasting or pan-frying. Try using a few toasted seeds to flavour a tomato sauce or roasted root vegetables. Seeds can be used whole or ground; preferably buy them whole and store away from light in airtight containers.

 

Fennel seed goes with …

pork, fish, chicken, lamb, cabbage, pumpkin, carrot, parsnip, potato, rice, ginger, onion, garlic, squash, tomato, apple, orange, salami, olives, capers, cumin, chilli, vermouth, cheese.