Broccoli is growing in profusion at the moment in our vegetable garden at Petersham (pictured top), and now is undeniably the best time to eat it. I never tire of roasted fennel, and its aniseedy flavour works well with the olives. This is a perfect vegetable accompaniment for white fish such as bass or halibut. Cooking with olives gives dishes a depth and richness of flavour, working well in chicken casseroles or slow-cooked lamb dishes. Throw them in just before the end of cooking so their flavour is not too overpowering.
600g/11/4lb broccoli, rinsed and trimmed of any fibrous leaves
3 fennel bulbs, tough outer leaves removes and sliced into quarters lengthwise
1 dried red chilli, crumbled
80ml/3fl oz extra-virgin olive oil
The peel of one unwaxed lemon
15 little black olives
Heat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Put the broccoli and fennel into a bowl, pour over the olive oil and season with the salt and dried chilli. Toss together well. Place the mixture in a roasting tray, tuck in the lemon zest and cover tightly with aluminium foil.
Place on the middle shelf of the oven and roast for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and scatter over the olives. Return to the oven and cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly and serve.
This dish is lovely served at room temperature with a little grated Parmesan, a squeeze or two of lemon juice and a drizzle or two more of extra-virgin olive oil.