When Maaike and I decided to start a food blog together, we spent quite some time brainstorming. About the content of the blog, the looks of it and of course the name. What’s in a name? Well, a lot! What we were looking for, was a name which would reflect our recipes and would make us happy when we’d type it, because it would evoke images of freshness, joy and cooking with pure ingredients. Names of fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits will easily do that, so we pondered on numerous combinations of these. A name which I thought had it all, was “Fennel & Lime”. At seeing this, like me, a reader would just have to think of things green and fresh, light and healthy, of modern recipes both sweet and savoury with ingredients from our cool North as well as the warm East and South. Right? It was a bit of a shock when Maaike said she actually didn’t like fennel that much and that seeing a website with a name highlighting that ingredient would hardly invite her to open it. In the end, to our mutual satisfaction, we chose the blog name Berries & Lime.
Thumbing through cookery books and magazines, I realized just how many more people aren’t enthusiastic about the aniseed flavour of fennel. Nevertheless, I’d like to break a lance here for what is one of my favourite vegetables. I use it whenever I can, raw in salads, roasted in oven dishes or pastas, baked in thin slices on Anna Jones’ cauliflower pizza with spinach. And, for a lovely treat, braised in this risotto. I’d like to challenge every fennel disliker to try this risotto and not change their mind. The acidity of the wine and the saltiness of the stock and the parmesan wonderfully balance the sweetness of the fennel. Together, the creamy rice and the juicy fennel create the ultimate comfort food. And lastly, because it looks so elegant, it is equally good as a Friday night on the couch supper as it is as a dinner party course. Therefore, although this combination of ingredients didn’t make it to the banner of our blog, I hereby present: “fennel and lemon: green, fresh and made for each other.”
Risotto with fennel and lemon – serves 4
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 large fennel bulbs
- 300 g arborio rice
- 300 ml white wine
- 1 l vegetable stock
- zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
- 50 g parmesan cheese, grated
- freshly ground black pepper
Cut the green leafy fronds off the fennel and keep them for garnishing. Finely chop the base and the outer leaves of the fennel.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan, then fry the chopped onion, garlic and fennel for a few minutes until softened.
Turn up the heat a little. Tip the rice into the pan and fry it until every kernel is covered with a layer of oil. Add most of the wine and stir through.
Lower the heat. Keep stirring until the wine has evaporated, then add a ladleful of the stock. Simmer until the stock has been absorbed by the rice, then add another spoonful. This way, a ladle at a time, slowly cook the rice until tender. This will take about 20 minutes and use up most of the stock. Stir regularly to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan.
In the mean time, slice the remaining fennel. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the fennel until browned. Add the remaining wine and a dash of stock and cook the fennel until tender.
When the rice is cooked, stir through the fennel and the juices from the pan. Wait until the fluid has been absorbed, then turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan and the lemon zest.
Divide the risotto over four bowls. Serve immediately, sprinkled with black pepper and chopped fennel sprigs.