I have been wanting to make this Roast Fennel and Cannellini Bean Puree for some time now and last night, which was as cold and gusty as an angry witch’s furious gasps, seemed the perfect time to make it. Moreso as a friend was coming round for a catch-up and a glass of wine…
Marcella Hazan introduced me to the many delights of white beans when I first started cooking in the mid eighties. She has a recipe for “Zuppa di cannellini con aglio e prezzemolo” (Bean soup with parsley and garlic) in her Classic Italian Cookbook that is simply superb. Sadly this brilliant book is out of print now but can still be bought second hand though I am shocked that anyone would ever part with it!
There are many recipes for white bean purees and this particular recipe has been inspired by a post in Food52 that I saw recently. The dish will not win any beauty contests but it tastes absolutely amazing and is perfect with a roast or a simply cooked piece of fish which is what we had it with last night.
The depth and complexity of flavours depends on cooking the ingredients fully and carefully before pureeing so don’t skimp on turning the fennel pieces over 3 or 4 times and watch the frying garlic as it goes from perfectly golden to burnt in a few seconds especially as it continues to cook in the hot oil when you take it off the heat. I have to say that the roasted fennel is absolutely delicious on it own too so feel free to make more that is needed for the puree if you want to have it as a vegetable side.
Roast Fennel and Cannellini Bean Puree (Serves 4 as a side dish)
Inspired by a post on Food52 for Roast Fennel and White Bean Dip
- 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into quarters. They will fall apart but that is okay.
- 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 large unpeeled garlic cloves
- Pinch of salt
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tin of cannellini or white beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- pinch of chilli flakes
branch of vine cherry tomatoes as long as they are tasty!
- Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F
- Closely trim the bottom of the fennel and trim the ends off the tops as well. Halve and then quarter the pieces, bearing in mind that they will fall apart. Place in a roasting tin with the unpeeled cloves of garlic and dribble over the oil. Using your hands, gently toss the fennel in the oil so that it is all coated. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven, for 30-40 minutes, checking every ten minutes to turn the pieces over. I find a that a timer helps here. Stop when the pieces are soft and golden. Cooking it this way drives out a lot of the moisture, concentrating that aniseed flavour and you will find that they shrink down quite a lot.
- In the meantime start the cannellini beans; pour the oil into a saucepan and heat gently. Add the chopped garlic and cook until nicely coloured. Watch it like a hawk as you get near the end as it will catch really easily, burning and turning bitter. Add the rosemary and then stir in the cannellini beans and the lemon juice and let it heat through. Take off the heat and set aside until the fennel is ready.
- Once the fennel is cooked turn the oven up to 220c/425F and stir fennel and peeled garlic cloves into the bean mixture along with the lemon juice and most of the parmesan cheese – reserve 2 or 3 Tbsp of cheese for the topping. I used a stick blender to puree the mixture but you could also use a food processor. Taste the puree and adjust the seasoning to your taste. If it is too thick, add a little water to loosen it up remembering that the texture should be like mashed potatoes.
- Scrape it into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle over the chilli flakes, fennel seeds and remaining parmesan cheese. Place the vine tomatoes on top if using. Dribble a little oil around the edges too. Cook for 15 minutes and serve immediatley.