White bulb moment: Skye Gyngell cooks with fennel

Perfectly in season and versatile enough to roast or eat raw – it's no wonder fennel is finding its way into almost everything Skye feels like eating right now

Crisp, with the cleanest aniseed taste, fennel is one of my favourite vegetables, largely because it is as good raw as it is cooked. In season now and at its very best, I am using it in almost everything I cook.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com

Fennel, radish, pea and mozzarella salad

This is a lovely, delicate salad that is simple to prepare and redolent of spring.

Serves 4

2 balls of good-quality mozzarella
1 tbsp crème fraîche
4 breakfast radishes
1 bulb of fennel
75g/3oz peas
A few drops of lemon juice
1 tbsp mild-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tear the mozzarella into equal halves and place in a bowl. Add the crème fraîche gently, so that the mozzarella is just coated. Season with a little salt and arrange on a plate. Wash and pat dry the radishes and slice finely. Remove the tough outer leaves from the fennel and cut in half. Now slice finely. Scatter the radishes, fresh peas and fennel over the mozzarella and squeeze over the lemon juice. Drizzle over the oil, scatter a few of your favourite salad leaves, and season with the salt and a little pepper.

Puréed fennel

The taste of the fennel becomes soft and delicate when cooked this way. It is a perfect foil for oily fish such as mackerel or sardines.

3 fennel bulbs
40g/2oz butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small bunch of dill, leaves only

Slice the base off the bulbs and remove the tough outer layer. Chop into one-inch pieces and place in a heavy-based saucepan. Add just enough cool water to cover. Add a good pinch of salt and place over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, then turn down so that the water is just simmering. Cook for 15 minutes, by which time the fennel should be soft when pierced with a fork. Remove from the heat and drain. Place the cooked fennel into a food processor and blend to a smooth purée. Add the butter and plenty of black pepper. Chop the dill finely and stir through the purée. Serve. The purée can be made in advance and gently warmed through before serving.

Roasted fennel and tomatoes with black olives

If pushed, I think I prefer roasted fennel to any other type – its flavour is deliciously sweet and the aniseed flavour just a little less pronounced. I can't think of anything it doesn't work with. The slow-roasted tomatoes in this recipe take a little time to cook, but last well and are also good on all manner of things.

Serves 4

4 ripe plum tomatoes
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
A little olive oil

Heat your oven to 120C/250F/Gas . Slice the tomatoes in half and lay cut-side up on a baking tray. Mix the sugar, pepper and salt in a bowl then sprinkle evenly over the tomatoes. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and roast for two hours. Remove and set aside to cool. While they are cooling, drizzle over the oil.

4 bulbs of fennel
Salt and pepper
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
1 tbsp olive oil
30ml/1fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
A dozen or so good-quality black olives
Sea salt and ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Remove the outer leaves from the fennel, reserving the fluffy green fronds as you do so. Slice into quarters and lay in a roasting tin. Season with salt and pepper, add the chilli and pour over the oil. Place on the middle shelf of the oven and roast for 45 minutes, by which time they should be tender and slightly caramelised. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

Arrange the fennel and tomatoes on a plate, season and drizzle over the extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, scatter over the olives and fennel fronds, and serve.

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