Braised Fennel with Citrus

Serves 4-6 9 April 2022 Dairy Free Gluten Free Vegetarian Friendly
Last month I was thrilled to be asked to create some recipes to celebrate the launch of Crane Cookware’s new range of copper pans.   Cooking with copper brings out my gentler, more delicate side. It’s innate elegance and stature forces me to stand up straight, pull myself together and treat the pan and its ingredients with discerning, graceful deference.

You see, I consider myself to be pretty heavy handed in the kitchen. Over the years, my cast irons have become my go-to as I cook cave man style, heavy searing over high heat and basically pretending I’m standing in front of an open fire.  However, following my adventures in copper, I would venture to say that cooking in copper makes me a better cook. Using objects of beauty in the kitchen compels me to pay extra attention and take extra care over every stage of creating a dish.

The first dish in the Crane series that I’m sharing includes my best loved ingredient pairing of fennel and citrus. It’s a sumptuous combination that I can happily eat every single day of the week in basically any format, forever. This braised fennel dressed with blood oranges and capers is a flavour party with elegant sweet undertones dressed with tang and delicate acidity.  Not to mention that it’s almost too good-looking to eat. Almost…… 

I urge you to use blood oranges or pink cara cara oranges here before their short season ends in a few weeks. I adore them and believe they should be used prolifically on everything and anything when you can get your hands on them. For those times when the blush variety are unavailable, oranges and pink grapefruit are also wonderful with the fennel in this dish.  

These copper pans are the easiest and most agile I have ever used, with their adaptability from hob to oven to table and incredible heat conduct and quick cooling ability. In contrast to my treasured cast iron, copper heats up rapidly and delivers a fantastically even surface with no hot spots. Their ability to loose heat as swiftly as they warm, makes it ideal for sugar work or chocolate, sauces, braises, seafood and fish as the pan temperature drops quickly once its taken off the heat, eliminating the risk of overcooking the ingredients.

Crane Cookware have kindly offered Building Feasts subscribers an additional 10% off their introductory copper offer.  Simply use the code COPPERFEASTS at checkout.  It’s a new season of glamorous cooking.

Many thanks to Sam Harris for the gorgeous images. I look forward to sharing more of his gorgeous pictures of our day together with you in the next few weeks.

This is basically the perfect side for just about anything, any time and is equally as delicious at room temperature for easy gatherings. The greatest challenge with this fennel is not to eat it all straight out the pan before it reaches the table. 

The butter in the recipe can be replaced with olive oil, but there is something magical about the flavour here adding an irresistibly rich decadence to the dish.


Braised Fennel with Citrus

  • 2 blood oranges or 1 pink grapefruit
  • 1 large fennel or 1 1/2 smaller bulbs, with fonds if possible (for garnish)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp salted butter, divided 
  • 1/2 tbsp honey (preferably orange blossom)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • a few thyme sprigs
  • 180ml Vermouth, white wine or stock of choice
  • 80ml water
  • 1 tbsp capers, drained
  • reserved fennel fonds, dill or micro greens for garnish

Start by prepping the citrus.  Using a knife, peel away the peel and pith.  Holding the peeled oranges over a strainer over a bowl, segment them by cutting between the membranes.  Place each segment in the strainer and allow any extra juice to drain into the bowl. (Also useful for catching any unwanted pips).  Squeeze the leftover membranes over the strainer so as not to waste a drop of the precious juice and reserve it all for later.

Cut the fennel into wedges a couple of centimetres thick. I slice them in half lengthways, remove the core and then cut each half into 4-6 equal-ish wedges, depending on the fennel size.  You should have between 10 and 12 wedges all together.

Place a large sauté or rondeau pan with a tight fitting lid onto a medium heat and add 2 tbsp of the butter.  This seems generous, but its completely worth it….

Allow the butter to melt and slightly foam and then squeeze in the honey.  Swirl them together until they are amalgamated and add the fennel wedges to the pan in a single layer.  I like to lay them fanned out in a circle for appearance purposes, but place them however they fit best in your pan.

Sprinkle with salt and scatter over the thyme sprigs, allowing some to fall into the hot butter and crackle.  

Cook for 6-8 minutes until golden brown on the underside.  Try not to fuss too much and just let them gently bronze and melt into the sweet butter.

Turn the fennel pieces over (I use 2 dinner forks here because it reduces klutziness), pour over the reserved citrus juice and the vermouth/stock.  Allow any alcohol to bubble away for a minute or so, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.  Simmer for 12-15 minutes.  

Meanwhile, fry up the capers.  Melt the remaining 1/2 tbsp butter in a small frying pan over a medium heat until starting to foam.  Pat the capers dry capers and toss in the butter, toasting them until they open up a little, develop a little golden crisp exterior and are wonderfully fragrant.  Remove from the heat and drain on a piece of kitchen towel, ready to sprinkle on the finished dish.

Once the fennel has had a little simmer time and the liquid has almost all evaporated, add 50-80ml of water to create a lovely jus in the bottom of the pan.  Turn the fennel in the sauce for another couple of minutes until very tender and remove from the heat.

You can either transfer the fennel and the unctuous jus to a platter, or serve it straight out of the pan.  Top with the reserved citrus segments, capers and reserved garnish greens.  


Have you made this dish?

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