It goes a bit against the Weight Watchers grain to advocate a vegetable side dish which is higher in points than the chunk of protein that is sitting alongside. Vegetables are zero point under the WW regime which means that the hungry WWer can be inclined to develop the mindset of vegetables as bulking agent rather than vegetables as delicious thingummies in their own right.
Well, no more. As delicious as the slow roast pork shoulder was on Sunday evening, this braised fennel dish was the undoubted shining star of the meal. We had originally intended to make some roast potatoes as well but neither of us could be bothered when it came to it and to be honest, I really didn’t miss them. Yet again proof that I never need as much food as I think I do to be satisfied.
This very simple but fabulous recipe is by the quite lovely Simon Hopkinson and the original can be seen on the BBC website. The only tweaks I have made are to reduce the amount of butter and Parmesan slightly – not by much, mind you, but it has shaved a couple of points of per portion. The point of the dish would be lost without the buttery, salty richness provided by these ingredients, but I should add that even in the original recipe, the delicate sweetness of the fennel is enhanced rather than overwhelmed.
1 large fennel bulb, cut in half lengthwise and trimmed
4 tbsp vermouth
40g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Serves 2, 7 pro points per portion
Pre heat the oven to 170 degrees while you prep the fennel.
Put the butter in an ovenproof dish and stick in the oven to melt (or, conversely, melt the butter and pour into the dish). Season the fennel halves and then add to the butter, cut side down along with the vermouth and the trimmings. Season the whole well with salt and pepper. Cover loosely with foil and roast in the oven for half an hour.
One the thirty minutes have passed remove from the oven and turn over (trying to maintain the structural integrity of the fennel bulb while doing so!) Return, covered, to the oven for a further thirty minutes or until the fennel is tender.
Tip the trimmings and cooking juices through a fine sieve into a small saucepan. Warm through gently and add two thirds of the Parmesan cheese. Using a small blender, whizz this mixture up until smooth.
Pour this over the fennel halves, adorn them with the remaining Parmesan and then stick under the grill until golden and bubbling.