I love fennel. It’s a highly versatile vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked as part of a sweet or savoury recipe. Every part of the fennel bulb is edible, and the roots, bulb, shoots, fronds and seeds all carry the same intoxicating, heady, aniseedy fragrance in varying intensities. Don’t waste any of it!
Tall, coral-like bushes of wild fennel populate the Italian countryside, scenting trails with their seductive perfume, making it easy to identify and hard to resist. I’ll often pick up some wild fennel seeds to perfume dishes, particularly pork ones.
This time I had a few bulbs (no seeds) from my recent Italian haul and decided to turn them into jam. The recipe is quick and very easy, uses the whole bulb and goes with both sweet and savoury dishes: it’s lovely on toast for breakfast or as a chutney with cheese and cold cuts.
1. Finely slice the fennel bulbs and put into a heavy-based saucepan on a medium heat and season with a generous pinch of salt.
2. Add the sugar and vinegar, bring to a boil, then simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has almost completely evaporated and the mix is sticky and jam-like.
3. Decant into a sterilised jar and seal.
4. I like to leave the jar in my preserves store for at least a week before diving in. Once open, eat within two weeks – no hardship – and keep it in the fridge.
1. If you have more or less fennel, the recipe is easily scaleable.
2. If you want to preserve the fennel’s delicate green colour, use white wine vinegar and golden caster sugar.
3. Because my version results in a rich brown jam, many assume its made from onions until they taste it.