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Tag: fennel

Maltese Fennel & Coriander Cheeseburger Toast

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

A few weeks ago, I received a message from someone excitedly telling me that she visited my ‘fennel lady’ in Malta. I often wrote about this lovely farmer, on the blog and in my cookbook, and I can’t imagine cooking without her aromatic harvest anymore. Every Sunday, she spreads her fennel and coriander seeds on the wooden table at a tiny stand at the farmers’ market in Marsaxlokk, a picturesque fishermen’s village in the south of my beloved Mediterranean island. It seems like this is what she’s done all her life, picking and selling seeds, always with a happy smile on her tanned face. The person who wrote me the email did what I always do in summer: she bought bags of fragrant seeds to fill the spice box in her pantry.

Malta is the reason why fennel became so prominent in many of my recipes. It grows wild all over the islands, the plants dig their sturdy roots into every patch of soil they can find. I guess its abundance is one of the reasons why you can find fennel in many traditional dishes in Malta’s Mediterranean cuisine – and its wonderful sweet taste of course. If you visit the small local restaurants, you often find baked fennel potatoes as a side dish on the menu.

When Leerdammer asked me if I’d like to create a recipe with their new Toast and Burger Cheese, I didn’t think twice. I love a good cheeseburger. I live in Berlin, a city where new burger joints pop up at every street corner like mushrooms. Although I like to try a new spot once in a while, I still have my favourite place when my meaty cravings creep over: The Bird. I always go for a perfectly cooked steak burger topped with a slice of Swiss cheese. However, in my own kitchen, I’m a little more experimental.

Leerdammer’s aromatic cheese tastes slightly sweet and it melts on top of a warm, juicy burger like butter. The cheese has a fine taste, but it’s not shy, it can easily take a generous amount of warming spices stirred into the burger mixture: fennel and coriander seeds, alongside lots of garlic, fresh parsley, and spicy black peppercorns crushed in a mortar. I felt inspired by the famous Maltese sausage, which is coarse, rough, and so tasty. It features all the spices that you can find in my burger. When it comes to flavour, Malta’s traditional sausage is one of the richest and most delicious I know. And what works in a sausage, can’t go wrong in a burger.

The burgers are bedded on a thinly sliced fennel bulb that adds freshness and crunch, a few red onion rings and arugula (rucola) instead of a lettuce leaf brings a sharp note. Usually, I prefer to buy my cheese in one piece, but when it comes to cheeseburgers, I don’t mind working with sliced dairy products. This way it looks like a proper American style burger, one with a Mediterranean make-over. You could pack the whole thing in a bun, but what about trying something new and layering it between two thick slices of toasted white bread? And instead of using the toaster, make use of the burgers’ buttery cooking juices and crisp the bread in the pan.

Thank you Leerdammer for inspiring me to make a Maltese cheeseburger toast. You can find more Toast & Burger recipes celebrating regional treats here.

Last year I created a few scrumptious sandwiches together with Leerdamer, here are some of my favourites:

Egg, Bacon and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables
Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich
Grilled Persimmon, Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Basil

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Makes 4 burgers

For the burgers

minced meat (beef and pork) 500g / 18 ounces
dry breadcrumbs 30g / scant 1/4 cup
organic egg 1
garlic, crushed, 2 large cloves
fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, 1 medium bunch
fennel seeds 1 tablespoon
coriander seeds, crushed in a mortar, 1 tablespoon
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, 2 teaspoons
flaky sea salt 1 1/2 teaspoons
butter, to cook the burgers
olive oil, to cook the burgers

To assemble the burger toast

fresh white loaf, 8 thick slices
medium fennel bulb, cored and very thinly sliced, 1
medium red onion, cut into thin rings, 1
Leerdammer cheese (or another aromatic cheese that melts well) 4 slices
(I used Leerdammer’s ‘Herzhaft-Intensiv’ Toast & Burger cheese. If you prefer a smoky note, go for ‘Rauchig-Würzig’.)
arugula (rucola), a small handful
olive oil
fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar, for the topping (optional)

For the burgers, in a large bowl, using your hands or a stand mixer, mix and knead the minced meat, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, parsley, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, pepper, and salt until well combined. Shape the meat mixture into 4 thick burgers.

In a large, heavy pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and a generous splash of olive oil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high, add the burgers, and, turning them 2-3 times, cook until medium rare. You might have to turn the heat down to medium after a few minutes if the burgers turn dark. This takes about 10 minutes. Add more oil if the pan becomes too dry.

Transfer the burgers to a plate (cover them with a lid), leaving the fat in the pan, and turn the heat up to high. Add the bread slices to the pan and toast each slice on just one side until golden and charred at the corners.

To assemble the burger, lay a slice of bread on a plate (toasted side facing down) and lay a few fennel slices and red onion rings on top. Arrange the warm burger and a slice of cheese on top, then finish it off with some more onion rings and a few rucola leaves. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with some fennel seeds, and close the sandwich with a slice of bread (toasted side facing upwards). Squeeze and enjoy!

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Feta and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

My latest discovery of a barley recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s stunning Jerusalem cookbook was a life changing event in my kitchen. I finally like barley!

For years my mother has been trying to convince me of the little grain’s qualities – unsuccessfully. I’m not a huge fan of orzotto or risotto, I can enjoy both of them for lunch but I wouldn’t call them a great source of inspiration. But then, as I thumbed through the pages of Jerusalem, page number 81 caught my attention: Parsley & Barley Salad. The title doesn’t mention the ingredient that changed everything for me, feta. The two London chefs marinate the cheese in spiced oil before they finish off their composition with barley, lots and lots of parsley, and spring onions. They also add cashews but I skipped them, I’m not too fond of nuts in my cooking.

So what happens is that, when I really like a recipe, my mind starts spinning looking for variations. First I added much more barley than mentioned in the recipe to turn it into a richer meal befitting these cold winter evenings. Then I stirred in raw, thinly sliced fennel, blood orange juice, mint, and honey-caramelized kumquats (an inspiration from last year’s celeriac salad). Ottolenghi and Tamimi use za’tar for their spice oil, which I replaced with ground cardamom and fennel seeds. Crushed coriander seeds and allspice berries are taken from their recipe and add a warming touch to it.

You’ll end up with quite a vibrant dish that can be eaten cold, as a salad, or slightly warm, as a main or side dish. Although the spiced oil, salty cheese, and sour kumquats are quite prominent, the nutty barley and crunchy fennel aren’t shy here either. What’s great about it, is that you can play with it, add and change spices, fruits, and vegetables according to your mood and the season. Just stick to barley and marinated feta, that’s the secret.

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

Feta and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

Serves 3-4

pearl barley 100g / 1/2 cup
olive oil 5 tablespoons, plus a splash
coriander seeds, ground in a mortar, 3/4 teaspoon
allspice berries, ground in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
fennel seeds, ground in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon
ground cardamom 1/4 teaspoon
feta, cut into cubes, 150g / 5 ounces
medium fennel bulb, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced, 1
freshly squeezed blood orange juice 4 tablespoons
fine sea salt
ground pepper
fresh mint leaves, a small handful

For the caramelized kumquats

honey 2 tablespoons
kumquats, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed, 12
(or 12 orange fillets, peeled)
freshly squeezed orange juice 4 tablespoons

Cook the barley in salted water until al dente, drain in a colander, and rinse briefly with water.

In a medium bowl, whisk the olive oil, coriander, allspice, fennel seeds, cumin, and cardamom. Add the feta and mix gently until the cheese is coated with oil and spices, set aside.

For the caramelized kumquats, in a small, heavy pan, heat the honey over high heat until liquid and bubbling. Add the kumquats and orange juice and cook for about 2 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom, turn and cook for another 1 1/2 – 2 minutes or until soft and caramelized; mind that they don’t become too dark.

Transfer the barley, sliced fennel, orange juice, and feta with the spiced oil to a large bowl and stir gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir in a little more olive oil if it’s too dry. Sprinkle with mint and arrange the kumquats on top. Enjoy warm or cold.

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

 

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

 

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

 

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

 

Feat and Fennel Barley with Caramelized Kumquats

Gooseberry and Fennel Chicken with Mint

Gooseberry and Fennel Chicken with Mint

Fruits are my new vegetables!

Recently, stone fruits and berries replaced zucchini, tomato, and aubergine in quite a few of my recipes, I became experimental and now I’m hooked. The acidity of gooseberries and red, white, or black currants can be challenging, but at the same time it’s exactly this quality that makes them a perfect partner for meat and seafood dishes. I don’t have to worry about overpowering natural sweetness, instead I work with their slightly sour juices. Cooking makes them less harsh and a dash of maple or elderflower syrup or honey mellows the most pungent fruit.

I found my inspiration for this recipe in my own archive. Almost 2 years ago, I pulled the most delicious tray of Moscato Chicken with Grapes and Thyme out of my oven. The meat was wonderfully succulent, infused with the honey-like aroma of Moscato grapes and woody thyme. The chicken thighs needed less than half an hour to be done, including a few minutes under the broiler for the skin to become nicely browned and crispy. There was no reason to change this promising cooking method, but I introduced different flavours to the palate. The sweet grapes gave way for sour gooseberries, I stirred some maple syrup into the white wine, and placed the whole composition on a bed of thinly sliced fennel. Some mint on top and my summer chicken was done.

Yesterday, I received the first advance copy of my book, you can see the happy moment on Instagram!

Gooseberry and Fennel Chicken with Mint

 

Gooseberry and Fennel Chicken with Mint

Gooseberry and Fennel Chicken with Mint

Serves 2 to 4

medium sized fennel bulb, cut in half, cored, and thinly sliced, 1
bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs 4
gooseberries 300g / 10 ounces
fruity white wine 5 tablespoons
maple syrup 4 tablespoons
olive oil 1 tablespoon
black peppercorns, crushed with a mortar and pestle
flaky sea salt
fresh mint leaves, a small handful

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F (conventional setting). If your oven is equipped with a Rotitherm roasting setting, use this setting instead. You just have to adjust the cooking time (it’ll need a few minutes less) and skip the broiler at the end of the recipe.

Cut off any large chunks of fat from the chicken thighs.

Spread the fennel on the bottom of a medium sized baking dish and place the chicken and gooseberries on top. Whisk together the white wine, maple syrup, and olive oil, pour it over the meat and fruit, and rub it in a little with your fingers. Sprinkle with crushed peppercorns and salt. Sprinkle with 3/4 of the mint and roast, spooning the juices from the pan over the chicken every 10 minutes, for 25 to 30 minutes or until the juices run clear when you prick the thickest part of a chicken thigh with a skewer. Turn on the broiler for a few minutes until the chicken skin starts sizzling. Sprinkle with the remaining mint, and season with flaky sea salt and crushed peppercorns to taste.

Gooseberry and Fennel Chicken with Mint

 

Gooseberry and Fennel Chicken with Mint

 

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Avocado, Melon and Fennel Salad with Mint

Avocado, Melon and Fennel Salad

This is the official start to my salad season. In the next month, I’ll be indulging – daily – in simple yet scrumptious compositions of tasty vegetables and juice-dripping fruits. Chopped and tossed with a quick vinaigrette or just a dash of olive oil and some flaky sea salt from Gozo. Ripe tomatoes, cucumber, fennel, radicchio, carrots and peas, the sweetest peaches, pears, and plums – summertime offers a firework of flavours and I’m ready to celebrate each single one of them.

My next few weeks will bring the kind of temperature into my life that makes you think twice if it’s really necessary to switch on the gas cooker. We’ll be off to Malta soon and that means it will be 30°C (90°F) in the early morning and more than 40°C (105°F) at noon – this calls for a different menu. It’ll be hot, but I won’t complain, it’s the time of the year that I look forward to the most. I can run around in an airy dress all day and late night swims won’t leave me chilled – it’s warm enough to sit on the rocks with wet hair when the sun has already sunk into the sea. I can basically live outside 24 hours a day, that’s my kind of paradise.

In the Mediterranean, you have to go with the flow and stay flexible, so we keep the cooking plan as open as possible to adjust to our mood. You can always find a large jar of fresh, homemade basil pesto in the fridge and, of course, the whole variety of Malta’s crop fresh from my favourite farmer Leli’s fields, all piled up on the table and shelves. Fresh oregano, marjoram, basil, and the spiciest arugula are ready to be picked in the garden and always at hand to refine a chunk of creamy mozzarella di bufala, a crunchy bruschetta from the BBQ, or a 5-ingredient pasta dish: Give me spaghetti, olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs and I’m happy. If I’m lucky, there will still be a few lemons on the tree in the family garden in Msida. The season’s over but my Maltese mama always keeps a few fruits on the tree for me, she knows how much a German girl enjoys the treat of picking the lemon for her morning tea straight from the branch.

I decided that I’ll spoil myself with a kind of luxury that doesn’t cost anything: To slow down and keep it simple, to let go of constant planning and rigid expectations. I know that I’ll sit at the sea for hours, quite possible every day, but that’s as far as my schedule goes. We’ll be away for a month to stay with our Mediterranean family, we won’t stop working, but we’ll definitely take a great chunk of time off, it will be a different pace. To give myself enough time for the transition from my northern to my southern rhythm, I’ll prepare a few recipes here in Berlin to share with you in the first two weeks of my holiday. Once I get into the groove, I’ll write about my Maltese kitchen life. Until then, I will enjoy a foretaste of what my taste buds have to expect: a simple salad of velvety avocado, honey-sweet Cantaloupe melon, and crispy fennel – topped with fresh mint and a light vinaigrette.

Avocado, Melon and Fennel Salad

 

Avocado, Melon and Fennel Salad

Avocado, Melon and Fennel Salad with Mint

Serves 2

For the dressing

olive oil 3 tablespoons
white balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
fine sea salt
ground pepper

For the salad

soft avocado, peeled and cut into thin wedges, 1
small fennel bulb, cored and very thinly sliced, 1
small Cantaloupe melon, peeled and cut into thin wedges, 1/2
fresh mint leaves, a small handful

For the dressing, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the avocado, fennel, and melon in layers in a wide bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle with mint leaves and serve immediately.

Avocado, Melon and Fennel Salad

 

fennelmelonsalad6

 

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Fennel Tomato Lasagna with Crunchy Bacon

Bacon Fennel Tomato Lasagna

A couple days ago, my boyfriend and I went to a meeting that finished much earlier than expected. We stepped out into the street on a cold and grey morning, looked at each other, and decided to squeeze in a quick coffee-date. Just the two of us, a black espresso for him, a creamy cappuccino for me, and a flaky chocolate croissant to share. We’re both a bit fed up with all the fancy cafés that sprout like weeds in our neighbourhood and always tend to look the same, no matter if you’re in Berlin, London, or New York. So, we went to our favourite Italian deli for a bit of dolce vita – sipping a fantastic coffee while listening to the patron chatting with his customers in Italian accompanied by a medley of Italian operas. A toddler giggled at us the whole time we sat on our wooden stools and two dogs observed the busy scene (which I usually don’t like in restaurants but they were too cute). The shelves around us presented a tempting selection of chiantis, pasta, polenta, capers, and bottarga. The counter right in front of us was filled with various prosciuttos, salami, ciabatta sandwiches, and homemade pasta treats. And right next to it, we could see scrumptious bowls of every antipasti one can possibly think of. Just the thought of it makes me hungry again.

This is the kind of scene that makes you want to go straight to your kitchen, open a bottle of wine, and start cooking. Italian of course. The weather doesn’t leave the slightest doubt that spring isn’t near yet, so a hearty lasagna is the best thing to have on your plate. Mine is filled with lots of juicy tomatoes, roasted fennel seeds, and the bulb thinly sliced and sautéed, plus crunchy bacon bites, dried chili peppers, a bit of parmesan, and a creamy béchamel sauce. At first, I wanted to combine the fennel with a meaty bolognese but then I remembered a pasta dish that I shared on the blog almost 2 years ago and that changed my mind. You could leave out the bacon, but I recommend you keep it – as long as you’re not a vegetarian. The fennel seeds roast in the meat’s salty juices and merge with the tinned tomatoes into a heavenly sauce. Layered with pasta sheets and the crisp fennel bulb, it’s just what I want on a cold day in February.

Bacon Fennel Tomato Lasagna

 

Bacon Fennel Tomato Lasagna

Fennel Tomato Lasagna with Crunchy Bacon

Serves 4 to 6

For the béchamel sauce

milk 700 ml / 3 cups
a pinch of nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
fine sea salt
ground pepper
unsalted butter 30g / 2 tablespoons
plain flour 30g / 4 tablespoons
large bay leaf 1

For the lasagna

butter, for the baking dish
olive oil
cored fennel bulb, thinly sliced lengthwise, 340g / 12 ounces
fine sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
thick-cut bacon, cut into very small cubes, 200g / 7 ounces
fennel seeds 2 tablespoons
garlic, crushed, 3 cloves
small dried chili peppers, 2
peeled whole tinned tomatoes, chopped, 1.2kg / 2 2/3 pounds
no-boil lasagna noodles, about 250g / 9 ounces
freshly grated Parmesan 100g / 3 1/2 ounces

For the béchamel sauce, combine the milk, nutmeg, and pinches of salt and pepper in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Immediately take the pan off the heat and set aside.

To make the roux for the béchamel, melt the butter in a clean medium saucepan over medium-high heat and as soon as it’s sizzling hot, whisk in the flour. Slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the roux and whisk until smooth. Add the bay leaf and simmer on low, whisking occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes or until the texture starts to thicken. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt, and pepper then cover, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F (conventional setting) and butter a 26 x 20 cm / 10 x 8″ baking dish (or a dish of roughly this size).

In a large, heavy pan, heat a generous splash of olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté the fennel slices in batches for about 1 minute per side or until golden and al dente. Spread out the fennel slices next to each other in the pan so that they cook evenly. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a plate.

Put the pan back on the heat and cook the bacon over medium-high heat for about 7-10 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy. Add a little oil if necessary and stir once in a while. Scrape the bacon to the sides of the pan, add a little olive oil (if the pan is too dry) and the fennel seeds, garlic, and chili. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 2 minutes, mind that the seeds don’t turn too dark. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and, stirring occasionally, cook for about 10 minutes over medium-high heat or until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Take the pan off the heat and set aside 3 tablespoons of the sauce (for the final layer of the lasagna).

Arrange a layer of pasta on the bottom of the buttered baking dish and spread with 1/3 of the tomato-bacon sauce and sprinkle with 1/4 of the béchamel. Top with 1/3 of the sautéed fennel and 1/4 of the Parmesan. Repeat to make 3 more layers, top the last layer with pasta. Sprinkle with the reserved 3 tablespoons of the tomato-bacon sauce and the remaining béchamel and Parmesan. Bake for 35-45 minutes (depending on the lasagna package instructions) or until the pasta is al dente. To brown the cheese a little, you can switch on the broiler for the last 1 to 2 minutes. Let the lasagna sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving and sprinkle with some crushed peppercorns. Enjoy!

Bacon Fennel Tomato Lasagna

 

Bacon Fennel Tomato Lasagna

 

Bacon Fennel Tomato Lasagna

 

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baconfenneltomatolasagna10

 

Bacon Fennel Tomato Lasagna

Blood Orange Mussels with Fennel, Ginger and Turmeric Roots

Blood Orange Mussels with Fennel, Ginger and Turmeric

I’m still in my post Christmas meat-reduced phase, I just don’t feel inspired to throw a heavy roast in the oven, or put a steak in the pan. Although the annual feasting is already a month ago, my appetite calls for vegetables and seafood, light on the body and preferably refined with lots of citrus fruits, herbs, spices or whatever comes into my mind.

Out of all the wonderful culinary gifts we get from the sea, mussels are one of the easiest to prepare and luckily, they’re still in season. I like to be brave when it comes to seasoning their cooking juices, I want each single flavour to be present to infuse their meat, this is not the time to be shy! Today’s recipe follows this rule and makes the most aromatic broth, it’s perfect to dip little pieces of crunchy baguette in. This is almost the best part of this meal and every time we have mussels on the table, it fills me with excitement. So, I chose a combination of sweet blood orange, fennel, fresh ginger and turmeric which literally melts in your mouth, it’s a colourful explosion of fresh flavours. Look at the bright yellow, the vibrant orange and refreshing green, translate that into taste and you’ll have an idea of what happened at our lunch table!

For the cooking broth, I mixed the citrus fruit’s juice with some white wine and grated a little zest which created a wonderful aroma. Roots were my next addition, strips and slices of warming ginger and luckily, I can get fresh turmeric at the moment. The deep orange root is a fragrant concentrate, it’s so unique you can’t compare it to anything else, not even the powder. When I peel the thin skin off it turns my fingers into a golden yellow, it had the same effect on the broth and looked stunning. I couldn’t help it, this buoyant dish just put a smile on my face!

Some more mussel inspiration:

Saffron Bouchot Mussels with Tomatoes, Garlic and Parsley

Spiced Mussels with Ginger, Lemongrass and Coriander

Blood Orange Mussels with Fennel, Ginger and Turmeric

 

Blood Orange Mussels with Fennel, Ginger and Turmeric

Blood Orange Mussels with Fennel, Ginger and Turmeric

For 2-3 people you need

fresh mussels 1 kg / 2 pounds
white wine 200ml / 1/2 pint
freshly squeezed blood orange juice 50ml / 1 3/4 ounces
blood orange zest 1 tablespoon
small fennel bulb, quartered and thinly sliced, 1 plus the fresh green, chopped, for the topping
fresh ginger, cut into small strips, a thumb sized piece
fresh turmeric, sliced, 1 thumbnail sized piece
bay leaf 1
salt 1/2 teaspoon

Rinse and scrub the mussels under cold water and cut off the beard, discard any broken mussels.

In a large pot, bring the wine and juice with the zest, fennel, ginger, turmeric, bay leaf and salt to the boil. Add the mussels to the hot broth, close with a lid and cook on lowest heat for 5 minutes or until the shells open (shake the pot once or twice while cooking or gently mix with a slotted ladle). Discard any mussels that don’t open! Sprinkle the mussels with the fresh fennel green and serve immediately, preferably with baguette and a glass of chilled white wine.

Blood Orange Mussels with Fennel, Ginger and Turmeric

 

Blood Orange Mussels with Fennel, Ginger and Turmeric

 

Blood Orange Mussels with Fennel, Ginger and Turmeric

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

My fennel carpaccio with salty capers and lemon is one of my favourite winter salads, I always have a couple bulbs in the fridge to prepare this 2-minute lunch or dinner for us. The vegetable is a tasty alternative to cabbages because, for whatever reason, it retains its strong aroma even when it’s out of its (natural) season. It’s always strong and present, be it baked in the oven as a gratin with parmesan sprinkled on top, with butter beans in a hearty soup or as a crunchy addition to salads. I would definitely suffer much more from the absence of summery tomatoes, zucchini and bell pepper if there wasn’t fennel in the house!

It’s been a while that we had a plate of pasta on our table, which is quite unusual for us. Inspired by my carpaccio, I pulled the linguine package out of the pantry and mixed it with thin fennel slices sautéed for just 2 minutes, a handful of capers from Gozo, lemon zest and juice. It was a quick and light dish, tasty and simply good!

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

 

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

For 2 people you need

linguine 200g / 7 ounces
medium sized fennel bulb, bottom cut off, very thinly sliced, 1
capers, rinsed and dried, a small handful, to taste
lemon zest to taste
freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1-2 tablespoons, to taste
salt
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, to taste
olive oil

Cook the pasta in salted water al dente, keep some of the water in a mug and set aside.

In a pan, heat a splash of olive oil and sauté the fennel for 1 minute on each side on medium-high heat. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir in a splash of the water used to cook the linguine and the lemon juice. Sprinkle with capers and season with salt, pepper and lemon zest and juice to taste.

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

 

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

 

Linguine with Fennel, Capers and Lemon

Spicy Cumin Fennel Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Ricotta and Lemon

Spicy Cumin Fennel Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Lemon

A few days after we got home from our summer holidays, the two of us met in the kitchen late in the evening, not sure what to make for dinner. Usually, a night light this calls for pasta and a simple tomato sauce, but we were in the mood for more, we wanted some spices on our plates! A quick look in the fridge offered a bunch of cherry tomatoes, fresh ricotta and a jar full of my Moroccan preserved lemons. The parsley on the kitchen counter looked like it wouldn’t last much longer but the leaves were still crisp and green. We pulled out the mortar and the pan, heated up some olive oil and crushed a spoonful of black peppercorns and our Maltese fennel seeds. We cooked the spices with a pinch of cumin in the oil for just a minute to unfold their aromas. When their peppery smell filled the whole kitchen, we added the chopped lemons and cherry tomatoes. After 3 minutes it was all done, ready to be mixed with the spaghetti, some lumps of ricotta and the fresh parsley leaves.

It was great, spicy and fragrant, a delicious mixture of the Italian and Arabic cuisine. Unfortunately, we had forgotten about this dinner. It was quite late, we were tired and we went to bed straight after we savored this meal. Weeks later, I remembered our spontaneous cooking session but it took me a while to recapture the recipe. So here it is, we cooked it again and loved it just as much!

Spicy Cumin Fennel Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Lemon

 

Spicy Cumin Fennel Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Lemon

Spicy Cumin Fennel Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Ricotta and Lemon

For 2 people you need

spaghetti 200g / 7 ounces
cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quartered, 400g / 14 ounces
ricotta 125g / 4.5 ounces
Moroccan preserved lemon, chopped, 1/4 or the zest of 1/2 lemon
black peppercorns, lightly crushed in a mortar, 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons (depending on the spiciness you want to achieve)
fennel seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar, 1 teaspoon
cumin, a big pinch
salt
olive oil
parsley, the leaves of 1/2 small bunch

Cook the pasta al dente in lots of salted water.

In a large, heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and cook the spices on medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the lemon (preserved or zest) and cook for a few seconds before you stir in the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes for 1-2 minutes until they start to soften and take the pan off the heat. Season with salt, mix in the spaghetti and top with ricotta and parsley.

Spicy Cumin Fennel Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Lemon

 

Spicy Cumin Fennel Spaghetti with Tomatoes and Lemon

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