This Fennel Soup can be made in either vegetarian or vegan variations. The aniseed flavour of the fennel is mellowed by slow cooking and this gives the finished soup a sophisticated taste which belies the simplicity of the ingredients. This means that, although it is really easy to make, this soup would not be out of place as a starter at a dinner party, particularly if you include the additions of cream, Pernod and decorate it with chopped dill or herb fennel.
When I first started cooking for myself, around twenty years ago, I loved to experiment with complicated recipes that included lots of different ingredients. However, over the years, my recipes have generally become simpler. Now I like to focus on one main ingredient and cook it in a way that brings out its particular unique flavour. This Fennel Soup recipe is a really good example of this approach. It is all about the taste of the fennel and how it can be transformed by slow cooking into something really special.
Not everyone likes aniseed. Actually, I am not that keen on aniseed! I do not eat aniseed flavoured sweets and actively dislike Pernod as a drink option. However, I love fennel, particularly when it has been slow cooked, as the aniseed taste is transformed into something special. And the addition of Pernod to the soup gives a aniseed boost without being overpowering.
This is a really easy recipe that showcases the fantastic flavour of fennel. Slow cooking the fennel mellows its aniseed flavour and produces a sophisticated soup that is at home as a dinner party starter as well as an informal lunch.
25 g butter or 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 fennel bulbs
Salt and pepper
1 large potato
500 ml water
1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon powder or a vegetable stockcube
Milk or water as required to thin the soup
1 tablespoon Pernod (optional)
1 tablespoon double cream (optional)
A few sprigs of fresh dill or herb fennel (optional)
Heat the butter or oil in a large saucepan
Roughly chop the fennel bulbs and the onion and add to the saucepan. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper and fry them very gently for around 15 minutes until they are soft and sweet.
Peel and chop the potato and add to the pan with the fennel and onion.
Add 500 ml of water and a teaspoon of vegetable bouillon powder. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Blend the soup until smoothe in a food processor or with a hand-held blender.
Add milk or water – or a combination – to thin the soup to the desired consistency. You will need around 500 ml depending on how thick you want your soup.
If you wish, you can add Pernod and cream to the soup before serving and decorate the surface of each bowl with chopped dill or herb fennel.
This recipe can be either vegetarian or vegan. If you wish to make a vegan version, use oil to cook the vegetables, water to thin the soup and omit the double cream (or use a non-dairy alternative).
Spaghetti with Smoked Salmon, Herb Fennel and Chives
Spaghetti with Smoked Salmon, Herb Fennel and Chives is probably the quickest and easiest pasta dish. It is done in the time that it takes to cook the pasta – which is usually around 10 to 15 minutes – and only needs a single saucepan. It is also extremely tasty with the cream absorbing the savoury, salty smoked salmon flavour and allowing it to permeate the whole dish. Although smoked salmon is often considered a luxury food, and can be expensive, a little goes a long way and it is fine to use smoked salmon trimmings which are sold in most supermarkets and are a lot more affordable.
The use of fresh herbs to enhance dishes and the ease with which this can be done – you just chop them up and add them at the end of cooking – is highlighted in this dish. I have referred to Herb Fennel, to differentiate it from the bulb fennel, often used in Italian cooking. Both the Herb and bulb fennel share an aniseed taste. Therefore, if you do not have Herb Fennel, dill is a good substitute.
My daughter, who is a pescatarian and therefore eats fish but not meat, describes this pasta sauce as being like spaghetti carbonara for non-meat eaters. I think she is right – there is definitely an echo in this dish of the creamy, salty taste created by pancetta and eggs in a carbonara.
I often make this dish as a quick family supper but, as the smoked salmon makes it seem luxurious, it is also a really good easy option for a dinner party or for a date night! It would certainly be a good choice for a romantic meal as it is so quick and tasty and is easy for those with little cooking experience to prepare (and, unusually for my pasta recipes, it does not include garlic!)
This quick and easy pasta dish combines delicious smoked salmon with fennel and lemon. It takes a matter of minutes to prepare and is perfect for supper after a long day at work.
500 g dried spaghetti
100 g smoked salmon (smoked salmon trimmings are fine)
2 fronds of herb fennel (or dill)
Bunch of chives (about 6 stems)
150 ml double cream
A knob of butter
Zest of half a lemon
Fill the large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. When boiling, add a pinch of salt, put the spaghetti in the saucepan and cook according to instructions (generally this will be for around 10 minutes).
Meanwhile, cut the smoked salmon into small pieces and finely chop the herb fennel and chives.
When the spaghetti is cooked, drain it and return it to the saucepan. Stir in the smoked salmon pieces, chopped herbs, double cream and knob of butter. Grate a little lemon zest over the pasta – the amount will depend on how lemony you like your pasta. Season with black pepper. There is no need to add any extra salt as the smoked salmon will be very salty.