Season: Home grown, May to September
Sometimes called Florence fennel, or its charming Italian name is finocchio. Fennel is like fat, bulbous celery, with the same crunchy texture but with a marked aniseed flavour. Fennel can be thinly sliced and eaten raw in salads, or shaved very finely with a mandolin and dressed with vinaigrette. It’s also very good cooked and served as a vegetable.
To prepare fennel: First trim off the green shoot at the top – if the fronds aren’t too droopy you can use them as a garnish. Then cut it diagonally into a pointed shape. Next, slice off the root part at the other end and remove any outer toughened, or brown, layers. Slice the bulb in half and then again into quarters. Now you can take a little of the stalky core out, but not all because you want the layers, including the inner green part, to stay intact.
To cook fennel: Cut it into quarters, steam it for 10 minutes, or until tender, then have a frying pan with 1 teaspoon each of oil and butter really hot and sauté the fennel till it’s golden brown at the edges.
Finally, sprinkle with a tablespoon of freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano) while it’s still in the pan and let it rest for a few seconds, then serve with a little more grated Parmesan sprinkled over and the chopped feathery fronds if there are any. Serves 2.
Unlike the classic gazpacho, this version includes the lovely aniseed flavours of fennel for a really Mediterranean touch. We know you'll love it and, if the weather is less than summery, it can also be served warm.
This lovely caramelised fennel would go brilliantly with any fish, meat or chicken but maybe, due to the inclusion of cider and cider vinegar, particularly well with pork.
Bottle summer vegetables for a taste of summer in the depths of winter. These lovely Italian-style pickles are superb with a plate of charcuterie or cheeses and good bread.
Goat's cheese, roasted vegetables, couscous and a fiery dressing combine to make this one of Delia's best and most popular recipes, perfect for a buffet or party.
These lovely peppers can be made in advance, so are perfect for entertaining as a starter - full of flavour, colour and intense flavours of Italian vegetables.
This makes a very appropriate main course for a warm day. It's a doddle to prepare and it has the advantage of being cooked and left to marinate, so that when the time comes you have literally nothing to do but serve it.
A lovely quick and easy pasta dish for a busy weekday supper. The fennel salad adds crunch and cuts through the richness of the cheese sauce really well.
Delia rises to the challenge to create a recipe for vegetarians without cheese!