The beautiful thing about fennel is that it can be used ‘nose to tail’. You can use the stalks and leaves as a herb, the seeds as a spice, and the bulb as a vegetable. It is characterised by its strong aniseed flavour and this recipe celebrates that by matching it with notes of orange.
This is a delight when served with a whole fish, wrapped in foil and baked. Try it with plaice, gurnard or haddock.
Makes: 3 x 300ml jars or 1 x 1 litre jar
Prep time: 15 minutes + sterilising + pickling time
Cook time: 5 minutes
Photography: Philippa Langley
Food Styling & Props: Kylee Newton
Season: Spring to Early Autumn
3 fennel bulbs
4 bird’s-eye chillies
400ml cider vinegar
50g golden granulated sugar
2 oranges, zest only
1/2 lemon, zest only
1.5 tsp yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes
0.5 tsp black peppercorns
1.5 tsp sea salt
8–10 fennel leaves (reserved from fennel)
Prepare the fennel bulbs by topping and tailing them, cutting off the stalks and keeping some leaves for garnish. Finely slice the bulbs, either with a mandolin or sharp knife. Finely chop (and deseed if you like) the chillies.
Combine all of the remaining ingredients (including the chopped chillies), except any reserved fennel leaves, in a medium, stainless steel pan and bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the spices have infused.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
Tightly pack the fennel slices into warm, dry sterilised jars 1cm from the rim then pour in the brine, distributing the spices evenly.
Fill the jars to about 5mm below the rim then gently tap the jars to remove any air bubbles. Top up with brine if necessary.
Add a couple of the reserved fennel leaves to each jar and seal.
Can be eaten within a few days or store sealed in a cool, dark place for 3 weeks to marinate.
Keeps for up to 4–6 months unopened. Once opened, keep in the fridge and eat within 4 weeks.
Preserving is a beautiful way keep in tune with the seasons and a great way to use leftovers too. Kylee’s book demystifies what can sometimes seem like an intimidating kitchen technique, and her storytelling and creative flavour combinations will actually make you fall in love with it. Recipe from The Modern Preserver by Kylee Newton, published by Square Peg, 2015.
— cook’s notes
How to eat: with a mozzarella or burrata salad or serve as a condiment with whole steamed white fish.