Golden delicious – a fennel and thyme gratin
I am a big believer that a crunchy golden topping can transform pretty much any vegetable or fruit from good to great. My kids seem to agree! We keep a constant stash of crumble mixture in the freezer (here’s my much-loved recipe for that mix) and I often whizz up stale bread with some lemon zest and parsley and then freeze that too. This is great to sprinkle over pasta bakes or softened vegetables before finishing in a hot oven. Here’s another recipe (pictured below) which gives similar treatment to a cannellini bean and rosemary dish.
A good crumble top gives any dish colour, extra taste and a consistency that appeals to everyone. Neal Perry says in his epic book Food I Love, “if you want to sell it, crumb it”. I couldn’t agree more!
Here’s a really great little recipe for braised fennel with a crunchy gratin top. You could use this method of cooking for loads of different vegetables too; try doing the exact same thing with witlof, radicchio or even fresh, roughly chopped tomatoes and eggplant.
Fennel and thyme gratin
150mls chicken stock
2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed and halved
1 brown onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp lemon thyme leaves
1 1/2 cups sourdough breadcrumbs
1/2 a bunch of parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Grated zest of one lemon
Preheat the oven to 200c. Bring the stock and butter to a gentle simmer in a saucepan and add the fennel, cook in this liquid for about ten minutes then transfer the fennel and juices to a baking dish. Wipe the pan clean, add a splash of olive oil and cook the onions and garlic for a few minutes or until soft. Add the thyme leaves and some freshly ground black pepper. Meanwhile mix the gratin ingredients together, stir through the onion and garlic and then sprinkle this over the fennel. Bake in the hot oven for about 15 minutes or until the top is golden and crunchy.
Notes – you could also add some roughly cubed pancetta to this recipe; add it with the onion and garlic and then mix into the gratin mixture.