It is the last week of winter here in Australia and I could not be more excited. The days creep seductively further into the night, the air becomes thicker with delicious humidity and best of all, the sunshine turns the atmosphere into a playground. Smiles come out of the woodwork. People come out of the woodwork. Sometimes I question the fact that humans are not a hibernating species. I know of many people (me included) that could testify against that fact.
I have often thought how funny it is that we allow things like seasons and weather to dictate what we do and how we feel. In a philosophical sense, it could be seen as bowing to external circumstances. Not a very yogic way of living, when we are aiming for equanimity and all that jazz. On the other hand, maybe it is exactly what we evolved to do. After all, going out into a blizzard in animal skin and without the latest Helly Hansen jacket probably wouldn’t be the most effective decision. Maybe we evolved to be lethargic in the colder months in order to prevent us from braving weather to the detriment of our family tree. Or maybe it was common sense that prevailed. It makes me ponder, how much of our behaviour is controlled by us and how much of it is overlooked by ancient evolutionary traits that are beyond our conscious thought? When we are making our own choices, practicing freedom of will, how much of that is actually a conscious choice that we make?
As the days become warmer, so our bodies crave different foods. Meals become lighter, fresher and cooler. This dish includes fennel as a star ingredient, which is technically still a cold month food. It contains loads of vitamin C, which is important in fighting colds especially during these last cold weeks, and folate, important for women of child bearing age especially. Interesting fact about fennel, apparently it was Thomas Jefferson’s favourite vegetable. If that doesn’t convince you to tuck in, I don’t know what will.
We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. Thanks to The Vegie Trail for the produce, it made the dish that much tastier! Make sure you source fresh, herbicide and pesticide free ingredients were possible.
Tomato braised fennel
• 2 bulbs of fennel
• ½ onion, finely sliced
• 1 tablespoon butter or EVOO
• 1 sprig of thyme
• 1 small garlic clove, crushed
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 1 cup vegetable stock
• a splash of white wine if you have some
• 5 large, ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 1 small teaspoon fennel seeds
• handful of small black olives (Ligurian or Kalamata)
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
- Clean the fennel bulb, trim the green leaves (don’t discard the leaves – they are good for a garnish) and remove the outer leaves. Cut in quarters lengthways and remove the hard inner core.
- Heat the butter in a large ovenproof pan over medium heat.
- When hot, add the onion, fennel seeds thyme and cook for 5 minutes, stirring.
- Add the fennel and cook until golden, turning them regularly and making sure the onion doesn’t burn too much. This will take about 10 minutes.
- Add the splash of wine now and cook off til it stops smelling alcoholic.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, olives, stock, salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the tomatoes break down. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 20 minutes, or until the fennel is tender.
- Serve with roast fish, pork or chicken.