Fennel is a hardy, perennial flowering plant which is a member of the carrot family. It has a white bulb at its base with green stalks, feathery leaves and yellow flowers. Originally from the Mediterranean, it is highly aromatic and flavoursome with a notable aniseed-like flavour that becomes sweeter and more mellow once cooked.
Bulbs can be shaved into fresh salads or sautéed, stewed, braised, grilled or roasted. The young tender leaves work well in salads, soups and sauces. And fennel seeds are often used in sweet desserts.
Fennel is a good accompaniment to fish or a traditional Sunday roast. Trim whole fennel bulbs and slice them lengthways into wedges. Toss with olive oil, a little balsamic, salt and pepper, and roast them until browned and slightly caramelised on the edges.
You can find fennel at Adelaide Showground Farmers’ Market at the Patlins Gardens, W & B Hart and Virgara’s Garden stalls on Sundays from 9am to 1pm at the Adelaide Showground, Leader Street, Wayville.
W & B Hart and Virgara’s Garden stalls are also at Willunga Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from 8am to 12.30pm. Also open on Saturdays from 8am to noon is the Gawler Farmers’ Market at the Gawler Visitor Information Centre, 2 Lyndoch Road, Gawler.
Here, Lyndall Vandenberg, marketing and communications coordinator for the Willunga Farmers’ Market, shares her recipe for pork shoulder braised in apple cider, honey, fennel, fresh herbs and spices.
“The thought of a succulent piece of pork shoulder, slowly braised in honey and apple cider, that falls apart on the fork is bliss,” she says.
“The pork’s natural fat yields a lot of flavour and also retains the moisture within the meat. If unavailable, a good substitute to shoulder is belly. Make it memorable and serve the pork with mashed potatoes mixed with mustard and steamed green vegetables.”
Pork shoulder braised in apple cider, honey, fennel, fresh herbs and spices
1.5kg pork shoulder, cut into fist-sized pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
3 medium carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
1 small fennel, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons full-flavoured honey
1 cup apple cider
salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
juice of ½ lemon
Preheat oven to 150C.
Choose a cast-iron pot with a tight-fitting lid big enough to fit the meat snugly. Place pot on the stove top, pour in the olive oil and heat. Season pork with salt and pepper then brown on both sides. Transfer pork to a plate and set aside.
Add the onion to the pot and cook until softened. Next, add carrots and cook for a few minutes, then add the fennel, garlic, rosemary and fennel seeds and cook for a further five minutes. Stir in the honey and let it bubble up for a minute.
Place the pork on top of the vegetables. Pour in the cider and enough stock to reach halfway up the sides of the pork. Bring to boil, cover with the lid then place in oven. Cook for about 2 ½ hours or until the pork is very tender.
Remove the pot from the oven and place on the stove. Transfer pork to an oven-proof dish and cover. Turn oven down to very low and return pork to oven to stay warm. Add lemon juice to the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for five or so minutes or until consistency is lightly syrupy. Adjust the flavour with extra honey, lemon or salt. It should be a balance between sweet, salty and sour.
Serve the pork dribbled with the vegetables and sauce.
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