Crusted Baked Fennel

This is similar to the wonderful Italian way of baking fennel with Parmesan cheese. I find the smell of fennel, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan and toasting breadcrumbs emerging from the oven almost unbearably mouthwatering. Serve with a tomato salad.

Ingredients

  • 4 large firm bulbs fennel
  • butter for the dish
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 75 g/3 oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 rounded tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Cut the top, stalks and base off the fennel bulbs and remove any marked outer leaves. Cut the bulbs into quarters, or sixths if they are very large, then boil in salted water until just soft all the way through. Drain and lay the pieces of fennel in one layer in a generously buttered shallow ovenproof dish.

Peel the garlic and chop as finely as possible. Put the breadcrumbs into a bowl and then stir in the olive oil, grated Parmesan, garlic, a sprinkling of crushed sea salt and plenty of coarsely ground black pepper. Scatter this mixture evenly over the fennel pieces and cook at the top of the oven for 20-30 minutes, until golden.