Archive for March 4, 2007

Nupur’s A-Z of Indian Vegetables ~ F is for Fennel

fresh fennel and garlic
fresh fennel as sold in the market, and garlic

“F” is for few… as in choices, from the edible vegetable realm for lovely
Nupur’s A-Z of Indian Vegetables this week!

Field peas? Not really…

Fanas (jackfruit)? But I was saving that for “J” …

Fenugreek? Well yes, but I cook with that often and I hoped for something new…

What’s left…

Fennel!!?? eek!!

I have never been a huge fan of fennel, probably because I am not a fan of licorice/anise. I have learned to enjoy fennel seeds as part of Indian and Italian cooking. Fresh fennel, however, was never on my shopping list. Then along came “F” week, and I remembered a long-ago holiday party at which was served, among other things, a platter of roasted veggies that included fennel. As I recalled, the roasted vegetable did not taste of licorice and I had thought it quite interesting. I decided to give fennel another try.

Fresh fennel looks a bit like overgrown celery at the bottom, and a bit like dill at the top. When raw, it does have something of a licorice or anise flavor. Roasted however, its natural sugar is drawn to the surface and the resulting taste is sweeter and more understated. To complement the roasted fennel, I chose two earthy ingredients: roasted garlic and toor dal. To finish the dish I tempered it very simply with fresh garlic, dried red chiles, and ghee. The result was a thick and flavorful stew of fennel pieces and toor dal. The mellow undertone of roasted garlic contrasted nicely with the delicious bits of fresh garlic sprinkled throughout.

I’m glad I gave fresh fennel the benefit of the doubt.

Fennel with Toor Dal and Garlic

1/2 c toor dal
1/4 tsp turmeric
salt to taste

1 bulb fresh fennel
1 head garlic

vegetable oil for roasting the veggies

1 tsp ghee
2 cloves garlic (saved out from the whole head), minced fine
dried red chiles according to taste


Clean the dal and cook with the turmeric and a little salt. When the dal is cooked, mash it well and keep aside. Meanwhile, wash and trim the top from the fennel, leaving mostly the white bulb. Cut the bulb into six wedges, leaving a bit of the root at the bottom of each as seen in the photo.

fresh fennel
fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into wedges

Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush it with oil. You can use the toaster oven if you don’t wish to heat the whole house for this dish. Spritz or drizzle oil onto the garlic and the fennel wedges. Sprinkle lightly with salt and place in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes, then turn and roast 20-30 minutes longer, until browned and tender. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

roasted fennel
roasted fennel

Squeeze the softened garlic from its peel into a bowl. Mash the garlic to a paste. Cut the tenderest fennel into small dice and mash lightly. Dice the remaining fennel and keep aside to garnish. Add the mashed garlic and mashed fennel to the cooked dal and mix well.

In a small pan, heat the ghee over medium-low heat and add the minced fresh garlic and dried red chiles. Keep on low heat until the ghee is nicely flavored, about 5-10 minutes. Pour the tempering into the dal and cover a few minutes to let the flavors blend.

Taste for salt and serve hot, garnished with the diced roasted fennel.

fennel with toor dal with garlic

fennel with toor dal and garlic

Thank you once again, Nupur, for the chance to learn about another new vegetable!

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