After turning my fennel fronds into a fresh and fragrant salad the other day, I had to come up with a way of using the actual bulb… shouldn’t that be the other way around?
What I love about fennel, and similar vegetables like garlic and leek, is that they jam pack any dish with so much flavour but it’s never too overpowering which makes it perfect for fennel, potato and aubergine anna.
This receipe is my fancified version of potatoes anna; a light French dish of potatoes baked in butter – similar to a potato bake, but I decided to jazz mine up with some fennel and eggplant.
Begin by thinly slicing some potatoes, I used about six large ones, as well as one eggplant. Salt the eggplant slices and set aside to draw out the moisture and bitterness.
Roughly chop a bulb of fennel, similar to how you would an onion or leek and evenly spread it along the bottom of a large baking dish.
Rinse off the eggplant and combine them in a large bowl with the discs of potato. Now is your chance to add any extra flavours – I added the chopped leaves of one sprig of mint and a handful of fresh parsley leaves, along with a good crack of salt and pepper.
Layer this mixture on top of the bed of fennel in as much chaos or order as you see fit, it works better if the discs are all laid flat.
Now for the pièce-de-résistance; melt ½ a cup of butter (or any combination of butter and olive oil) and drizzle it over top of the heaped vegetables. Place the dish into a hot oven and cook for 30 minutes.
The beauty of this dish is the variation in textures you will end with; a bed of soft and steamy fennel, a layer of crisp potato slices on top of a firm bed of juicy potatoes and soft, creamy eggplant, a smattering of herbs throughout and a rich buttery sauce. The flavours meld together perfectly and the excess butter absorbs the aniseed bite of the fennel and the minty freshness.
Serve hot on a winter’s night or cold with a fresh salad as a summertime lunch. The flavours are full enough to act as a standalone dish, but subtle enough to work aside fish, chicken or even beef.