For the second post running, here's a recipe that's been sitting in my bookmarks for a solid decade, waiting for the right moment to be properly appreciated. The impetus here is the multiple batches of fennel turning up in our vege deliveries, including a single bulb the size of a melon! What better way to prepare it mid-winter than in a pie?
I was introduced to this recipe via the blog Nourish Me, which always had a relaxed handful-of-this, maybe-some-of-that style. I've laid out the recipe a bit more formally below simply so that I can copy the ingredient list faster for future shopping trips. Although the ingredients list runs a little long, there is indeed a lot of flexibility here to skip or substitute herbs, spices and vegetables (and even veganise the 'custard' element). Still, it's been very helpful in its original form for guiding me through baking some fennel with subtle, complementary orange and walnut flavours, and scrunching over a contrasting crunchy filo top.
This would be lovely with a salad on the side in sunnier weather, and perhaps some other baked or steamed vegetables at this time of year. But actually, we just transferred large expanses of this pie to our plates and enjoyed it on its own.
Fennel & walnut pie
(a recipe from Nourish Me,
where it's credited to Leiths Vegetable Bible)
2 large (or 1 enormous!) bulbs fennel
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
zest of a lemon or orange
small handful fresh parsley
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
1/3 cup milk
3 tablespoons walnuts, roughly chopped
200g filo pastry
Preheat an oven to 180°C.
Wash and trim the fennel, and slice it as thinly as you can. (Reserve the leaves!) Pour the oil into a frypan over medium heat, and add the fennel and a pinch of salt. Gently saute until soft, and just starting to brown a little. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, paprika and citrus zest. Spread the fennel mixture across the base of a high-walled baking tray.
Roughly chop any fennel leaves, and also the parsley. In a small-medium bowl, whisk together the egg, yoghurt and milk. Stir in the fennel and parsley leaves, then salt and pepper. Pour the yoghurt mixture evenly across the fennel in the tray, without being too fussy about it. Sprinkle over the walnuts.
Melt the butter, and get the filo pastry unrolled and protected with a lightly damp tea towel. Crumple sheets of pastry over the tray of fennel and brush in between layers with butter. Messy is good! Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and crispy on top.