Archive for fennel

Nettle and snail soup

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Half Hour Meals

Americans and similar small-minded people may be surprised to learn that snails are edible. In fact, if you have ever had a McFlurry from McDonald’s, then you have consumed snail, or at least the part of a snail that … perhaps I’ve said enough.

We tend to associate snails with France, but there is a historic snail-eating culture in Britain dating back at least 2,000 years. And in Somerset in the Sixties, the chef Paul Leyton popularised snails further when he invented Mendip Wallfish, a dish in which they are cooked with butter and herbs. But you can use snails in many other ways – with, say, wild rabbit cooked in cider, or like this, as a soup garnish.

You can buy cooked snails or use garden snails, but you must purify them by leaving them in a container with a mix of flour and water or lettuce leaves for a week before cooking. To cook them, bring some cider to the boil with a tablespoon of salt, some fennel seeds, a bayleaf and black peppercorns and simmer for about 40 minutes or until tender; leave to cool in the cooking liquid. Once cool, remove from the shells and remove the black sack, rinse them – and they’re ready to go.

16-20 snails
2 leeks, trimmed, cut into rough 1cm rounds and washed
a couple of good knobs of butter
1 tbsp flour
1.5l vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a handful of young nettle tops, washed

Melt the butter in a thick-bottomed pan and gently cook the leeks for 3 minutes to soften, stirring every so often. Stir in the flour, then gradually stir in the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer on a medium heat for about 20 minutes.

Add about two-thirds of the nettles and simmer for another few minutes. Blend in a liquidiser until smooth, then return to the pan. Add the rest of the nettles and simmer for a few more minutes, seasoning again if necessary. Add the snails to the soup and serve.


Chickpea Curry

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


Half Hour Meals

600g dried chickpeas
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
5 cardamom pods
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 red onions, peeled and sliced
1 small bunch of coriander, roots included
1 red chilli
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 tbsp maple syrup
the juice of two limes
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 jars of good-quality tomatoes
50g unsalted butter

Soak the chickpeas overnight. Drain and place in a large pot of cold water. Add a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Cook over a medium heat for around 45 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.

To make the base of the curry, warm up the spices in a small pan, being careful not to burn them, as this will result in a bitter taste. Grind using a pestle and mortar.

Add the vegetable oil to a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients comfortably and place over a medium heat. When the oil is warm, add the onions and cook for five minutes to soften them. Chop the coriander and the chilli very finely and add to the pot along with the garlic and the spices.

Add the diced carrots and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the maple syrup, lime juice and soy sauce, stirring well to combine the flavours, and cook for another few minutes. Add the tomatoes and turn up the heat slightly. Cook for 15 minutes to thicken the sauce.

At this point it should taste hot, sweet and slightly sharp. Keep the pan over the heat until the carrots are cooked through but still firm. At this point, add the chickpeas and the butter.

Salmon, cucumber and fennel soup

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


Salmon bones aren’t generally used for stocks in the kitchen, as they tend to be a bit oily and overpowering. But I hate wasting any food – even fish bones! Once the bones have been blanched to get rid of the oils and their slight bitterness, they make a perfectly good soup or stock.

For the stock:
800g-1kg salmon bones, washed
1 leek, peeled, roughly chopped and washed
1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
½ bulb of fennel
1 tsp fennel seeds
10 white peppercorns
1 bayleaf

For the soup:
40g butter
30g flour
100ml white wine
½ bulb of fennel
150g salmon fillet
4-5cm cucumber, halved lengthways and seeds scooped out
1 tbsp chopped fennel
1 tbsp double cream
salt and freshly ground white pepper

Put all of the ingredients for the stock in a saucepan and add about 1.5 litres of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming every so often, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean saucepan and continue to simmer.

Poach the salmon fillet in the stock for about 4-5 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and leave to cool.

Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the flour and cook on a low heat, stirring continuously for about 30 seconds.

Whisk the flour mixture into the simmering stock, season and continue to simmer gently for about 30 minutes. The soup should have thickened up nicely now and have a good flavour; if not continue simmering until it has.

Cut the cucumber into 1cm dice, flake the salmon and add to the soup with the cucumber, chopped fennel and cream, bring back to a simmer and re-season if necessary.

Baked trout and spring greens

Posted in Food with tags , , , , on April 2, 2009 by Robin Gosnall


This is a menu, rather than a dish. The trout can be eaten as a course alone, maybe with boiled new potatoes, followed by the spring greens. Gentle flavoured wild brown trout is now in season, should you know a fisherman, but farmed trout is available all year round. Trout contains Omega-3 fatty acids, good for the heart and tissue health – but it will not boost a child’s IQ. Sorry. And just think of the vitamin-rich spring greens as hair-curlingly good.

Buy a trout weighing 450g for each person. Ask the fishmonger to gut it for you. Season it with salt and pepper inside. Insert a few thin slices of lemon or fresh fennel (or both) into the cavity then rub the outside with olive oil. Wrap in baking paper or foil, securing it like a cracker at each end.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Bake the trout for 15 minutes or until it feels firm to the touch and a pressed finger does not leave an imprint. Remove and eat with a little butter melted with either some chopped fennel fronds or grated lemon zest – or both, as before.

To make spring greens for four people you will need about 450g. Wash the greens and boil in lightly salted water until just tender – about 5 minutes. Toast two tbsp chopped, shelled walnuts in a teaspoon of olive oil then add two tbsp butter.

Toss the greens in the butter, add fresh ground black pepper and serve.

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