I am still in my temporary abode and have a paltry collection of five recipe books to hand. Four of these are devoted to baking and contain the sort of recipes which are certainly happiness-inducing but invariably not very healthy. So I decided that my fifth book, Yotam Ottolenghi’s Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, was the best punt for something approaching wholesome and nutritious.
Opening the book at random afforded a recipe for fennel, cherry tomato and crumble gratin – not exactly a virtuous dish because of the fairly hefty dose of cream and cheese it contains. But then it is packed full of veggies. I reckon it’s a fairly happy kinda dish too due to all those vibrant red tomatoes and fresh garden herbs. And it certainly made me smile to eat it.
Dom doesn’t encourage tinkering in the Random Recipe rules but I was really itching to add some leftover gorgonzola to this dish which I thought would pair beautifully with the fennel. In the end the gorgonzola won out and I have to say it was a worthy addition, especially against the sweetness of the crumble topping.
Because I had already broken the rules, I threw caution to the wind and added a handful of pinenuts for some extra crunch. Not strictly necessary but these too are a nice addition.
Considering the pungency of the gorgonzola and the aniseed notes of the fennel, I was surprised by the subtlety of this gratin but it is a gorgeous dish nonetheless. Given Ottolenghi’s serving suggestion (he says it feeds 6-8), I am guessing the gratin is intended as an accompaniment but in my opinion, it is tasty enough to be a main course in itself. Just add a green salad and some crusty bread to mop up all the delicious juices.
Fennel, cherry tomato and gorgonzola gratin (adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook)
Serves 3-4 as a main course
- 75g plain flour
- 25g caster sugar
- 50g butter
- 50g parmesan, grated (or a vegetarian alternative)
- 4 large fennel bulbs
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves plus a few whole sprigs
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 100g gorgonzola
- 200ml pouring cream
- 300g cherry tomatoes
- 1 tbsp pinenuts (optional)
- 1 tsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
- sea salt and black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan. Mix the flour and sugar together then rub through the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the parmesan and set aside.
2. Trim the fennel bulbs then slice into 1-1.5cm slices. Toss with the olive oil, thyme leaves, garlic, 1 tsp of sea salt and a generous grind of black pepper. Pile into an oven proof dish (about 20cm x 20cm).
3. Crumble the gorgonzola into the cream and mash it together with a fork. Pour over the fennel then sprinkle the parmesan mixture over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
4. Remove the foil and arrange the tomatoes and pinenuts on top of the fennel. Scatter over a few thyme sprigs and return to the oven for about 20 minutes until bubbling and starting to turn golden at the edges.
5. Remove from the oven and let rest for a couple of minutes before sprinkling over the chopped parsley. Serve with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the juices.