No, no no, Phyllis is not a tart. She’s a friend of mine.
And when it comes to fennel – well, I say, fennels for anybody who likes fennel, and not just Phyllis.
I, however? If fennel were to disappear from the world, I would not miss it. I feel the same way about cauliflower. I will and do eat both vegetables, weirdly enough, it’s just that I don’t gush over them. True, fennel can be eaten on its own, raw, dunked in olive oil with salt and pepper. Otherwise, just as with cauliflower, it always requires some kind tarting up. Raw cauliflower? Yikes, no amount of over-seasoned dip can take away its horribleness for me.
I was having this conversation with Phyllis Knudsen, a former chef from Vancouver and author of oracibo.com, whose experience and outlook on food I greatly admire. That and she cracks me up, she’s really funny and, you will agree, we all need cart loads of humour just now the way the world is going. I read an article a couple of weeks ago that maintains we are living in a golden age, with statistics to prove the point. It was written in 2016 and has immense merits (here’s a link if you want to read it: https://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/08/why-cant-we-see-that-were-living-in-a-golden-age/) – it’s just that it doesn’t often FEEL as though we are living in a golden age, I don’t know about you. Whatever. Hats off to all those who make life lighter for us, and that means you too Phyllis.
But back to tarting up and a recipe that turns fennel into a tart with surprisingly good results. Take a look.
Slice the fennel in rounds, quite thick ones at that and cook them in a pan with olive oil and butter over quite a strong heat.
Turn the fennel rounds over just the once, and sprinkle some salt too.
Silly me, I didn’t take a photo first but … if you look closely on the right hand side above, you will see an amber-coloured goo underneath the cooked fennel. That goo is gorgeous honey. So, avail yourself of a 26cm baking tray and enjoy the zen-like activity of trickling honey over the tray (not too much honey, however!).
Turn the oven on at 200° Celsius.
Scatter a good amount of grated parmesan cheese over the fennel. Add some thyme if you have any. I didn’t and had to make do with oregano.
Cover the fennel with pastry. This was store bought, so easy peasy. Use a fork to make some holes in the pastry. And bake for about 30-35 minutes.
The pastry has puffed up beautifully.
Get hold of a plate that will cover the baking tray and turn the tart over, onto the plate/dish.
Add some fennel fronds to the tart, to add freshness.
And was it good, you might wonder?
Indeed it was. And I shall definitely make this again. And I still maintain that fennel needs pampering, bla bla bla, droning on and on and on ….