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Category: Slices of Life

Fennel

Anyone else like fennel? It’s in season now and I love it. It’s crisp and crunchy with a delicate aniseed flavor. I  usually eat it raw, in salads or to have with dips, but I don’t usually cook it.

Today I experimented with it in a “bottom of the fridge” dish — you know, the kind of dish you make out of whatever’s left in the fridge, before you go out and do a big shop.

Normally I discard the tough outer layers of the fennel bulb and the thick stems, but I hate wasting food, so I thought, let’s see how it works if I cook them. 

I sautéed a few chicken pieces and the chopped up outer bits of fennel, including the stems, in oil, added garlic, a chopped carrot and half a red pepper (because this is a “bottom of the fridge” dish, and that’s what I had.)  I added chicken stock and after about 10 minutes I tossed in some rice, to thicken it and let it absorb the liquid.

I have to say it worked a treat. It’s a simple and fairly plain dish, but the delicate flavor of the fennel comes through beautifully and compliments the chicken. You could add parmesan cheese and make it like a risotto, too. Or add some spices — I didn’t use any herbs or spices this time because I wanted to see how it tasted plain. 

Yummy. Chicken and fennel go together beautifully. The pic above is what’s left — that’s going in the fridge to be my lunch tomorrow.

I’m going to make fennel soup next, probably in combination with chicken (or chicken stock) and some other veggies. Because it’s soup weather here — cold and grey and damp.  And because I’m working hard on my latest novel, and when I’m stuck, chopping veggies and stirring soup often helps.

Are you a fennel lover or not? And do you make soup? What’s your favorite?

Unexpected blooms

I’ve always loved frangipani (plumeria) flowers, ever since I was a kid and my big sister had them in her bridal bouquet. So pretty and such a lovely fragrance. They don’t readily grow down south (of Australia), where I live — they’re more of a tropical plant. But some people manage, and I’ve been trying for years to get one to flower — without success. It hasn’t died, but that’s the best I can say of it.

When a friend of mine moved house a few years ago, she was delighted to find an old frangipani bush growing in her garden. Several years passed but it never flowered for her. She moved it, tried planting it in a different position, but still not a bud in sight. 

A few months ago, in frustration, my friend ripped her frangipani out. She was about to throw it in the green recycle bin when she decided I might want it, so she stuffed it in a plastic bag and dropped it over to me. I thought it would never grow. It was just a couple of thick old sticks, no leaves and barely a root to its name. So I bunged it in a pot at the front porch and forgot about it. 

And lo . . . I have flowers! There they are in the photo above — only two so far, but more coming. And they smell divine. So at the moment at my front door I have a few late gardenias in bloom and frangipani. Bliss.

Mind you, my original frangipani has more leaves than ever this year, but not a single bud of flower. I live in hope, though, that my new plant will encourage it.

Are you a fan of fragrant flowers? What’s your favorite?

Fresh Basil

Three days ago a friend gave me a bunch of fresh basil, straight from her garden. It was so gorgeous,  so lush and fragrant. I would usually make  fresh pesto with it — I love pesto— but instead I’ve been tossing the fresh leaves into salads and bowls of hot vegies. So yummy.

I’ve had it for several days now  and it’s still looking fresh and delicious. That’s what’s left of it now, in the photo on the right, after three days in my kitchen — still fresh and yummy.  So I thought I’d share the trick I discovered a few years ago for keeping fresh basil fresh.

Stick the stalks — as they come from the garden — in a glass of water and place a plastic bag over the top — just loosely. Don’t put it in the fridge — keep it on the kitchen bench. I don’t spray the leaves or anything. Any faint condensation on the plastic bag is from the leaves themselves.

It also works with the basil you buy in bunches from the supermarket. Pop them in a glass of water and cover loosely with a plastic bag. I’m not sure how long it will last for — I usually eat fresh basil pretty fast.

Are you a fan of fresh basil? How do you prefer to eat it?