And I have a difficult relationship with aniseed flavours. I find this strange given that I sat at my mother's knee as a child, taking sips from her ouzo and coke on hot summer nights, liking the combination of coke and aniseed flavour so much that it became my mixed drink of choice in my early 20s.
So then, I like ouzo. I like licorice. Star anise as part of mixture of other spices is fine. And while I avoided dill for long time I now tolerate it, finding that I enjoy it more as I grow older. I don't like fennel and have given it a wide berth until this winter when, faced with the need to look to other vegetables in view of constraints imposed by a recently diagnosed fructan intolerance/malabsorption, I thought I'd give it (yet) another try.
In early winter, with some trepidation, I made Toby Puttock's 'Celery and parsnip soup with bottarga' (Delicious, June 2010, p.50). Except I didn't use bottarga, I used bacon instead and despite having fennel as one of its ingredients, it was delicous. So lovely, light and yummy I've made it several times since.
And now I'm giving tomato soup and fennel and another go. When I posted my first weekend soup! recipe a friend contacted me to share her recipe with me. Here is it is in Ellen's words:
FENNEL AND TOMATO SOUP
This recipe came from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook at a time when I was tearing my hair out over Stella’s rejection of food - pretty much every food, all the time – and I was trying to figure out how I could incorporate her love of liquorice into real food. Hence the aniseed taste of fennel proved to be an absolute winner, and I believe I almost cried when she told me this was yummy. And it is so simple to make. I love this soup!
4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 fennel bulbs, cored and thinly sliced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small potato, cut into ½ cm cubes
1 225ml can plum tomatoes (Italian roma tomatoes)
6 cups/1.35 litres of chicken stock or broth
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium high heat, add fennel, onion and potato. Reduce heat to medium-low and let the vegetables sweat for 10 minutes, taking care not to let them brown. Add the tomatoes, cook for 10 minutes more. Stir in the chicken stock, bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 1 hour.
Remove the pot from heat and let the soup cool for a few minutes. Transfer the mix to a blender, working in batches to avoid accidents (and yes, there have been accidents aplenty in my kitchen from being too greedy and overfilling the blender!), and puree til smooth. Return to the pot, bring to the boil, lower to a simmer, season with salt and pepper. Serves 6.
Anthony Bourdain also suggests adding a few slices of garlic with the vegetables at the beginning, and a few drops of Pernod at the end. That’d probably be fantastic, but I like the basic soup just as it is…maybe with a Pernod or Ricard to go with it though!!
I made this recipe today and can categorically say that it is absolutely SENSATIONAL.
It's light and fresh but has enough substance to make it a great winter soup that doesn't weigh you down. Sweating the vegetables brings out a lovely sweetness, the addition of potato moderates any overbearing aniseed flavour and I think provides the light creaminess to the soup once blended.
I did add garlic and a dash of pernod to the soup, and also did a Keith Floyd by enjoying an alcholic drink during its preparation this morning - a glass of pernod mixed with lemonade. My reaction to the pernod drink was one of 'yukky/refreshing', as a friend's toddler likes to say. I think it will grow on me.