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Better Late than Never, Fennel & More

by on July 2, 2010
 
Just got a bike. As in a bicycle, three years after living in the Netherlands.
Flat country and all, I’ve never been motivated to ride.
This is a third stage in my life, cycling
The first was as a child when our Choppers brought so much joy
Then I had a bike at University and rode it once when I was in Donegal, in the west of Ireland.
Once and that was it – 10 years ago.
When we moved to the Netherlands, everyone expected us to get bikes.
This flat country where a hill is a mountain, to a Dutchman.
Well, we didn’t then.
I was super comfy walking, driving or hopping on the bus
But something changed this week past
And we – husband and I got bikes.
It fits perfectly with our drive to get healthier
And to lose weight
And so I’m glad
In any respect, I consider it an investment
Even with my aching bum and legs
An investment in our future
And our health
So I’m glad I got my bike
I say better late than never!

Fennel—–♥♥♥—–

I love foods that contradict and for me, celeriac is one of those – it has all the flavour of celery, none of its lingering aftertaste and it has substance, which I guess is why I love it.

As for aniseedy veggies, when I first heard of fennel, I was sure I would hate it but a trial convinced me. If you hate liquorice, there is a good chance you will still love fennel and even feel a bit inspired to try aniseed flavoured sweets.

Mermaid dropjes in a sea

Not me though. Have you every heard of Drop, which are Dutch jelly black sweets flavoured with zoethout (sweet wood/licorice) but not just liquorice…..salt too. And before you get any ideas, these are as far from delicious salted caramel sweets as the north pole is from the south. But the Dutch love then, swear by them and eat them by the bag. They are top on the list of home requests from Nederlanders abroad – and come in all shapes and sizes.

Drop

And flavours – salty, sweet, minty and the like.

Coin drop

Some shapes are regular;

Keyring drop

And some not so regular – made in the likeness of Brussels Manneken Pis!

Manneken pis drop I hate them. Sorry. And I say to all who care to listen that you have to be born Dutch to love ’em. Funny enough, the exception might be my Nigerian-conceived, Holland-born son, who is more Nigerian in this regard. He will have the liver pate and cream cheese for breakfast but those zwarte snoepjes (black sweets) he won’t touch with a 10 foot pole. Smart ehn?

I remember once, I got a free bag form Sligro and I took it into the office – kind me. Some of my drop-loving colleagues pounced on them. One guy, P in his love for them put a pile next to his desk as he worked. All around him were pencils and post its and magnets for our board, including a black magnet. Well, he almost lost his teeth, mistaking the dark metal of a magnet for a drop. That will teach him I said….especially after he did this to me. Well, I didn’t mean to be mean.

Drop mix

So back to fennel. I love it.

It is easy to prep, cooks quick, doesn’t need over spicing and is delicious with the fragrance an light flavour of aniseed.

The first time I had it (photos featured here), I sliced it and it formed a bed for some fish…which we had with spaghettini. It was wonderful. Then, last Friday, we had it cooked and pureed and served with fish again – it was light but hearty at the same time, and chock a block full of sweet flavour.

Earlier this week, I made a soup – just boiled up fennel chunks with water, onions, garlic and a pinch of salt. Once cooked, I blitzed it up and that was dinner, again with fish. I had actually planned on putting some soaked almond flakes into the cooking mix but I forgot. I will try that next time.

What was left of the soup went into some roast chicken juices to enhance our gravy on my birthday (which was Wednesday) Which was lovely. Thanks for your kind wishes.

One tip I’ve come across for enhancing its taste and aniseed flavour is to add a dash of Pernod or Ricard. A tip I remembered as I went shopping and purchased a bottle of Pernod. A tip though which I promptly forgot once my Autumn stew was ready!

And so again photos from the archives and some notes on how to store and clean fennel.

For more tips on veggies, check out my A to Z.

To store fennel, refrigerate in a tightly wrapped  plastic bag or leave it in the packaging it came in till ready to use.

To prepare fennel, wash the bulb and then slice off the hard base – about 1/2 a centimetre from the bottom. I also slice off the small stalks and leaves and save them for flavouring roasts and stocks.

To clean the fennel, even though I remove the top layers with a vegetable peeler, I still take apart the first ‘leaves’ and wash them thoroughly because they are often loose and some sand gets trapped. Depending on what you want to do with it, some further work may be required.

IMG_1064

At the centre of the bulb, there is a conical core, with the circular end of that cone at the base of the bulb. Nowadays, I slice it in half and then using a small, sharp knife, I cut out the core and then proceed with dicing it or slicing. The first time I made it though, I ignored the ‘heart’ and sliced it once clean, without care. And it turned out fine so….

IMG_1070This weekend, I am planning on having it in a salad with some kumquats, and maybe having another go at the soup with almonds….hopefully I remember the splash of Pernod!

Fennel spreadHave a blessed weekend – I will try my best to…aching backside, cycling mad and enjoying some sunny weather. Happy Canadian and American Independence day! And if you have any tips for fennel, let me know.

I will be posting recipes from week 2 and some new discoveries. LOL