One of our favorite autumn vegetables is fennel. In this dish we pair it with the deep flavor of saffron and the spiciness of harissa. It goes well with a lemony white bean purée. Serve with fresh bread to make this a light, seasonal dinner.
2 fennel bulbs 4 tbsp olive oil salt ½ tbsp each fennel seeds, coriander seeds and cumin seeds 60 g (vegan) butter 1 pinch of saffron, dissolved in 100 ml warm water 1 ½ tbsp sugar 1-2 tablespoons harissa (depending on the desired spiciness)
500 g white beans (cooked or canned) 120 ml plant milk juice and zest of half a lemon salt and pepper
Wash and clean the fennel, but do not remove the stalk. Set the fennel greens aside. Cut the fennel lengthwise into 1,5 cm / ½ inch thick slices, held together by the stalk. Crush the fennel seeds, coriander and cumin a little in a mortar. Dissolve the saffron in the warm water.
In a large pan heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add as many fennel slices as will fit in the pan in a single layer. Lightly salt the slices. Sauté three minutes per side until slices are lightly browned, then remove from pan and transfer to a plate. Repeat the process, adding more oil if necessary, until all fennel slices are sautéed.
Reduce heat a bit and toast fennel seeds, coriander and cumin in the pan for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and let it melt, then add the saffron water, sugar, harissa and ½ tsp salt to the pan, bring to a boil briefly. Return the fennel slices to the broth and simmer gently for about 5 minutes, covered, turning once in between.
Meanwhile, for the bean puree, briefly boil the beans with the milk in a saucepan. Add zest and juice of the lemon, salt and pepper, remove from heat and puree with a hand blender (or mash with a potato masher). Stir through and season again with salt and pepper.
The fennel should have softened in the broth by now, but still have some bite. Place the bean puree on plates, arrange the fennel on top, drizzle with the broth and top with the fennel greens. Serve with fresh bread.