Delicious served with a dollop of soft goat’s cheese for an entrée, or simply as an accompaniment to lamb, fish or chicken or other vegetable dishes. 

serves 4

2 baby fennel bulbs (or 1 medium-large fennel bulb)

1 cup polenta

finely grated zest of a lemon

2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan, or pecorino 

freshly ground pepper

sea salt

⅓ cup rice flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup finely chopped fennel fronds

olive oil, for cooking

soft goat’s cheese, for serving

To prepare baby fennel, trim stalks leaving about 3cm in length. Cut bulbs in half lengthways, across through the stalks. Cut each half into 1cm wide slices. If using a larger bulb, Cut in half lengthways, then cut each half into six wedges.

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the sliced fennel and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove fennel and drain well on a tray lined with a clean tea-towel.  Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Combine polenta, lemon zest, fennel fronds, parmesan, pinch of ground pepper and ½ teaspoon salt in a wide shallow bowl to mix well. In two extra shallow wide bowls place side by side in a row, place flour in the first one, the beaten eggs in the middle and the polenta mixture in the third.

Coat both sides of a fennel slice in flour and shake to remove excess flour. Then dip fennel into the egg to coat both sides and allow excess egg to drip back into bowl. Finally dip the fennel into the polenta mix coating both sides evenly, shaking off excess crumbs. Transfer crumbed fennel onto a tray. Repeat steps with remaining fennel slices. 

When ready to cook, heat enough oil to a depth of 0.5cm in a large heavy based frypan over a medium-high heat.  Scatter a few polenta crumbs in to oil, if it sizzles the oil is ready for cooking.  Cook four of five crumbed fennel slices at a time, for 2-3 minutes until golden brown, turn over and cook for 2 minutes until golden brown.  Transfer to drain on a tray lined with paper towel.  Keep warm and cook remaining fennel slices. 

Serve warm with soft goat’s cheese and extra sprinkling of sea salt.

Fiona Hammond © August 2018

Mark Brancatisano