Roast fennel with olive and orange stuffing

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Preparation info

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Appears in

Vegetables: The new food heroes


By Peter Gordon

Published 2007

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These are delicious on their own as a main course, but equally they make a great starter (serve just one per person) or a side dish with a meat or fish main course. I like to replace the orange zest with lemon or lime for serving with grilled fish, or add lots of mint to the mixture and serve with grilled lamb chops. The roast fennel are also good to eat at room temperature, so they make a great picnic dish.


  • 4 fennel bulbs
  • tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons hot water
  • 2 large handfuls of watercress (not too much stem though)
  • handful of mint leaves, roughly torn
  • 1 lemon, quartered, to serve

For the Stuffing

  • 4 large handfuls of coarse fresh breadcrumbs
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
  • 2 handfuls of stoned olives, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or you can also use oregano, basil, tarragon or mint)
  • tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Trim off and discard any discoloured parts of the fennel and cut the bulbs in half lengthways. Place in a large pot, cover with cold water and add a tablespoon of salt. Bring to the boil and boil until you can insert a knife almost all the way through. Drain in a colander and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the stuffing by mixing together the breadcrumbs, orange zest and juice, olives, thyme, a little salt and the olive oil.

Using baking parchment, line a roasting dish just large enough to hold the fennel halves snugly. Once they are cool enough to handle, take one half at a time and hold it in the palm of your hand, cut side up. Gently pull the layers apart, being careful not to break them off, and poke the stuffing in between them. Stuff all the fennel in the same way.

Lay them in the roasting dish, stuffed side facing up, and sprinkle any remaining stuffing over, then drizzle with the oil. Add the 4 tablespoons of hot water to the dish and bake in the centre of the oven until dark golden in colour and heated through.

To Serve

Mix the watercress with the mint and place on 4 plates. Sit 2 stuffed fennel halves on top of each and scatter with any crumbs and juices from the roasting dish. Place a lemon wedge on the plate.