Better Late than Never, Fennel & More

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

[wpurp-searchable-recipe]Better Late than Never, Fennel & More – – – [/wpurp-searchable-recipe]

29 Comments

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  2. […] minute I haven’t cooked fennel in ages…and another, I’m breaking open the liqueur cabinet and putting out the brand new bottle […]

  3. I’m funny with licorice, I don’t mind it in small doses but I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat it. I quite like fennel though, especially roasted in olive oil. It’s a very pretty vegetable, we don’t see enough of it.

  4. Its about time Girly! There is nothing like Biking to the market or the next town. There is no better way to get around and parking is great. That is the 1 thing I think I will miss the most when I leave holland. I will take my bike but it wont be the same.

  5. I’m one of those oddballs who loves fennel but not black licorice. Although, I must say, just looking at those creative shapes of the black licorice makes me wish I DID love the stuff. 😉

  6. Well…now I know a little more about the Dutch and their sweet tooth;0) As a child I ate way more licorice candy than I do as an adult. The most I’ll experience within that flavour…are my favourite anis-based liquor…the ‘Sambuca’…anise chocolate biscotti and of course the star in my produce variety…the almighty fennel! I’m always munching on it more so than I do celery. I don’t let any go to waste. I’ll use the stems in a stock or add more veggies…turn it to a purée and pass it through a seive….love it.
    Thanks for such a great post.
    Flavourful wishes, Claudia

  7. I LOVE fennel and I am with you, I have not figured out the appeal of those Dutch salty sweets, but fennel, now you have my attention. I love to roast it with a bit of aged Balsamic and sea salt

  8. I use to hate fennel when I was younger. the bitterness was very hard to swallow. but now that I’m older and my palate is more developed I have come to appreciate it more. they are luminous with walnuts and blue cheese. yum!

  9. I love fennel, and I’m off to the farmer’s market hoping to pick some up. I like it roasted too.

    Funny you should mention about the drops. This is what I always say about them, either you love them or hate them there’s no in between…same thing with Marmite. I love them both and grew up eating the drops. My grandmother used to give them to me in church. I’m not sure if anyone else in our family liked them. Growing up in west Michigan where there is a large Dutch influence, we could buy them anywhere! Now I have a friend here that works for a Dutch Company so she’s in Holland often and brings them back for me…that and stroopwafels.

    • :-), two very Dutch things – exceedingly liquoricy sweets and extremely sweet waffles, and yet they are so healthy a people. I guess the milk and bicycles even things out!

  10. Aah, licorice drop! My colleague offered the packet when I visited Holland for biz, but need more time to get used to the flavour 😉 In the meantime, love fennel!!

    Enjoy the beautiful summer weather over weekend 🙂

  11. I have never tried fennel before. Can you believe that? Now I know what it looks like. 🙂 Thanks for this post.

  12. I hope you enjoy your bike! And I love fennel too…I only discovered it a couple of years ago, but now I can’t imagine my plate without it!

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