Fennel Gratin Recipe: Food is Beautiful – The Kitchen Garden proves it!

Recipe: Food is Beautiful – The Kitchen Garden proves it!

I had a food adventure the other day, in my own Kitchen Garden!!

Beautiful flowers promising to turn into Runner Beans

Erik is a brilliant photographer, always has been, always will be.  But the other day, one of those rare August sunny days, I was in the Kitchen Garden and realised that the sun was streaming through, giving the vegetables an almost ethereal look.

Erik was busy in our office (on the top floor of a 3-storey Victorian house), so I popped back into the kitchen and retrieved my camera (I am so amateur compared to Erik) but I wanted to have a go.

Bramley Apples – think of all those apple pies!

The plant that started it all off was a Lettuce called ‘Mascara’ – such a girly name, and such a beautiful swirly lettuce – it has a vivid bronze rosette in the middle, then the leaves swirl around, and gradually the bronze diminishes, becoming tinged slightly with green, then the green becomes the main colour, the leaves just tipped with bronze.  So beautiful, and so tasty.  It is a lettuce recommended by Sarah Raven (See Inspirations on right) and tastes as good as it looks.  Just looking at it makes me want to whip up an oil and Sherry vinegar dressing, maybe with a teaspoon of  wholegrain mustard, a pinch of sugar and seasoning and just sit and dip in the Mascara leaves  See what you think.

The other photo that I am proud of taking is the one of Fennel – one of my favourite vegetables.  I have always loved it, especially with fish, just braised in vegetable or chicken stock, a bit of wine (or Pernod if you are really into an aniseed taste), a dab of butter, a bay leaf and mixed herbs.  But my all time favourite is the Fennel Gratin Recipe, from The River Cafe Cook Book, cooked in cream and parmesan .  Goes brilliantly with lamb.  In the Kitchen Garden, it doesn’t like too much heat, and will bolt when the weather gets too hot (chance will be a fine thing, this year in Yorkshire).  So I do an early sowing, which has just finished, and have sown again for early Autumn.  Enough of food, here’s my photo, and I love it, hope you think its good enough.

The feathery fronds of Fennel

That’s my first go at photographing the fruits of my Kitchen Garden, t0 prove food is beautiful, but there will be more.

Fennel Gratin Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook/Chill Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 6

Fennel and Parmesan Gratin comes from The River Cafe Cookbook, from those amazing ladies, Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers. Erik and I had a wonderful meal there a few years ago, a treat from our friend, Andy, who was just about to leave his job as the Wine Manager at The River Cafe, to come up north again. It was certainly a meal to remember.

This is one of my favourite recipes for Fennel. Very rich, and goes well with lamb and pork.


  • 10 fennel bulbs, washed & trimmed
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) double cream
  • 50 g (2 oz) Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, freshly grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled & finely chopped


  1. Method:
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F/Gas 6 (For AGA cook on the shelf laid on bottom of the top roasting oven). Bring large pan of water to the boil, ready for the fennel.
  3. Cut the fennel bulbs into 6 lengthways so that the individual pieces are held together by by central core. Blanch in the boiling water for 2/3 minutes, drain very well.
  4. Lightly butter a shallow baking dish. Toss the fennel in a mixture of the cream, half the Parmesan and garlic. Season with salt & pepper. Place in the baking dish, and scatter the remaining Parmesan on top, cover with foil and place in oven.
  5. After 20 minutes, remove the foil, and put the dish back into the oven for a further 10 minutes to gently brown.


The cooking time with blanching is 35 minutes.

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