Fennel

Pumpkin Ravioli with Shaved Fennel & Burnt Sage Butter

For somebody who loves feeding others, I seem to have a propensity for surrounding myself with people with serious food issues.

The omnipresence of my famously flavourphobic partner aside, my small circle of family and friends seem to be a motley crew made up of those with various intolerances, medically restricted diets, committed (and occasional) vegetarians, coriander-loathers, banana-haters and even someone who can’t eat anything green. Whilst I love feeding each and every one of them, they do, however, present somewhat of a challenge to cook for. Luckily (for them?), I do love a good challenge and catering for theirPumpkin Ravioli with Shaved Fennel & Burnt Sage Butter specific needs and preferences does force me to try out new things. More often than not, the end results become firm personal favourites.

Which brings me to this particular recipe: Pumpkin Ravioli with Shaved Fennel and Burnt Sage Butter – a dish so insanely good, just saying the name makes my mouth water! Born out of the need to feed a friend who is a borderline vegetarian (and a selfish desire to use a ravioli mould that I bought when last in Rome), this delightful little dish is damn near pasta-perfection on a plate.

A variation of the Italian classic Ravioli di Zucca, the addition of the thinly shaved fennel is a refreshing twist, both in terms of texture and flavour. The crisp fennel and lemon cuts through the richness of the pumpkin/pasta parcels and burnt butter, giving the original dish much needed balance.

This satisfying dish makes for an amazing starter, as it does a worthy main.

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Pork, Fennel and Butter Bean Stew

Pork, Fennel & Butter Bean StewI have always been a fan of one-pot wonders and this has to be one of my all-time favourites!

Not to be confused with the classic, tomato-based, Spanish stew of Pork, Chorizo & Butter Beans, this wonderful piquant braise is, however, equally delicious! Whilst not strictly Spanish, this humble stew has all the hallmarks of Iberian cuisine; uncomplicated, but packed full of flavour. I must however confess that I don’t usually enjoy dishes that are overtly lemony, but this stew is an exception. The chunks of smoky chorizo adds depth to the zesty broth which, in turn, balances the richness of the pork shoulder. All great meals are about balance, and this stew walks that tightrope brilliantly!

Traditional accompaniments aside, this dish goes very well with just about anything and whilst some fresh tagliatelle or simple mash would be awesome, I personally love it with just some crusty bread. What better way to mop up the delicious sauce? Add a simple rocket/arugula salad, pour yourself a glass of chilled white wine and you have true Mediterranean bliss on a plate. Phenomenal.

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Chicken Katsu with Warm Fennel & Almond Salad and Sichuan Chilli Oil

Chicken Katsu with Warm Fennel Salad and Sichuan Chilli OilInspiration is occasionally born out of apathy and the origins of this tasty meal were no different.

Feeling particularly uninspired one evening, I decided to forgo my usual practice of preparing two completely separate meals for dinner and instead decided to do the unthinkable – eat the same dinner as my partner! Now please bear in mind that this dining-convergence doesn’t happen often in my kitchen, very rarely in fact. We have wildly different tastes and normally I’m happy to make us different dinners every night, but there are occasions when I justifiably just think, “sod it” and we end up with the same meal. At least almost exactly the same, I always have to tart my own meal up, just a little!

So, “Chicken Schnitzel with mash” for two it was then! Now I must confess that the very first time I made this dish it was with some horrendous ready-made Chicken Schnitzels, wrestled from the frozen depths of my freezer. Indeed I had sunk so low, but like I said, “apathy = inspiration”.

But even in this heightened state of disinterest, I still needed something to spruce up this dire meal, so I set about rummaging through the fridge. I was looking for quick fixes and I found some; leftover pickled fennel that I had made for Kimchi Tacos – sorted! Things were starting to look up. It was only then that the inspiration started to kick-in; some toasted almond flakes were added to the fennel and Sichuan Chilli Oil, leftover from when I last made Dan-Dan Noodles, found its way onto the plate! Whilst this was fast turning into an inspired concoction, the addition of these two ingredients turned out to be culinary-dynamite! With just a few simple twists this meal went from turgid to terrific!

Note: The chicken in this dish has since morphed into Japanese Chicken Katsu, but there is nothing wrong with using good old chicken schnitzel instead (homemade or otherwise). For all extents and purposes Chicken Katsu and schnitzel are pretty much the same thing, but my need to complicate things for myself is, sadly, inherent and overwhelming.

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