Fennel with parmesan

I was sitting in the dentist’s waiting room recently and, flicking through a local magazine I came upon an article about the work of Caroline Richardson. I liked it immediately which was a little surprising as usually I am more of an impressionist bent rather her perfect, clear approach; but it’s not photographic at all, all her paintings have soul.

Another reason I like her paintings is that her subjects include a lot of colourful food: fantastical ice creams dribbling raspberry sauce, lurid pink doughnuts, a jelly-topped cheesecake; a particularly sensuous quince, fat figs, glossy peaches and peppers.

And I also like the quieter fennel – see featured image.

Her paintings are currently on show at the Reality exhibition at Rum’s Eg in Romsey.

fennel with parmesan recipe
Bake until the breadcrumbs are golden. This dish travels well.

This recipe has been adapted from a Jane Grigson recipe passed down to me by my mother. The whole family likes this, but it is especially liked by my daughter who doesn’t normally like fennel.

It freezes well – in fact it improves with freezing, softening in the reheating. It also travels well.

It is terribly simple.


Recipe for fennel with Parmesan


For four


  • 6 fennel bulbs
  • Knob of butter
  • 4 tbsp grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
  • Smoked salt and Indonesian long pepper


  1. Heat the oven to 210°C – use the top right aga oven
  2. Grease a pretty ovenproof dish generously with the butter (you want it to eke into the juices) and put a saucepan of water on to boil
  3. Take a thin slice off the base of each bulb of fennel to get rid of the brown – not too much, the stem will keep the quarters together.
  4. Cut off the fronds at the top and reserve
  5. Take off any tough or old-looking outer layers
  6. Quarter the bulbs vertically
  7. Blanch the fennel in the boiling water for about five minutes
  8. Drain it and put it in the greased dish
  9. Sprinkle over the salt, pepper, breadcrumbs and Parmesan
  10. Bake the fennel for about a quarter of an hour until the cheese on the top is golden and the juices are bubbling.
  11. Serve with the odd frond to garnish

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