Butter-braised fennel

There is something deeply satisfying in this super simple dish which enriches the anise flavoured fennel with butter and earthy thyme. It takes a surprisingly long time to cook, but the wait is worth it as the fennel melts in the mouth and the natural sugars caramelise beautifully in the butter, adding gentle charred notes. It is wonderful with fish or chicken or pork; or topping bruschetta that has been rubbed with garlic and spread with ricotta. Before the warm weather comes we’ll be feasting on this dish at our place at every opportunity.

Serves 4 as an accompaniment

2 medium-sized fennel bulbs
50 g butter
sea salt
1/2 lemon
fresh thyme and fennel fronds

Preheat oven to 180 C. Place a 20 cm square ceramic or glass oven-proof dish in the oven with the butter until it is melted. Meanwhile, trim the stalks of the fennel bulb and cut the bulbs into 6 – 8 wedges, depending on the size of the bulbs. Take the dish out of the oven and place the fennel in a single layer, turning over to ensure each wedge is covered with a light coating of the melted butter. Season well with sea salt and bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, until the fennel is very soft, and golden brown, carefully turning over a couple of times during the cooking. Place the fennel carefully in a serving dish and scatter over some fresh thyme leaves and fennel fronds. Squeeze about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice into the buttery juices remaining in the dish and mix well. Drizzle over the fennel and serve.

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