Peter at Souvlaki for the Soul won last month's whole grain/citrus/ginger joust with a really delectable-looking halva recipe. And with a sort of perverse glee he set fennel, parsley and dairy as his 3 challenge ingredients. Fennel and dairy? And parsley? So this one took some thinking about.
Eventually I figured it out. A base of my wonderfully flexible fennel confit, with goats cheese in a souffle. I'm pretty relaxed about souffles since adopting a rule to live by - if it rises it is a souffle, if it doesn't it's a sformato. If it really, really doesn't it's a frittata. See? Nothing to worry about.
Fennel & Goats Cheese Souffle
Finely chopped stems of 2 x 25g bunches parsley
1 orange - grated zest and juice
3 anchovy fillets, chopped (I sacrificed my last anchovies for this. Won't be buying more until I can find a sustainable source since they have been identified as vulnerable to overfishing)
¼ cup white wine (dry sherry, vermouth, whatever is open really)
2 fennel bulbs, outer leaves removed, very finely diced
1 large onion, finely diced
50ml/2fl oz olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1tbs plain flour
1/2 cup milk
80g grated pecorino
150g soft goats cheese
Extra grated pecorino
1 whole egg
Put all the fennel confit ingredients in a heavy-based pan and cook gently, covered, for about 20 minutes or until the fennel is soft and all the liquid has evaporated. Allow to cool.
Make a very thick bechamel flavoured with pecorino and goats cheese. I normally go completely nuts on seasoning a bechamel, but this is no time for mustard or nutmeg or lashings of white pepper. Well, maybe some white pepper, but on this occasion I didn't.
Combine the cooled fennel confit with the bechamel and the whole egg in a large mixing bowl.
Beat the eggwhites to firm peaks and fold gently into the fennel mixture. Leaving the odd small streak of unmixed eggwhite is OK.
Grease a souffle dish with some soft butter and dust it with more pecorino. I have heard that making sure your brush-strokes all lead upwards in the souffle dish helps it rise because the mixture "climbs" the strokes. Maybe it does. Can't hurt. Turn the souffle mixture into the dish and bake, undisturbed, at 180C for about 1/2 an hour, or until it is well risen (or not) and golden brown.
Serve with a parsley salad (did you think I was going to just waste the parsley leaves?). Serves 2 greedy people as a main course, 6 as a starter in cute little straight-sided ramekins.