Mention fennel to any Orthodox South Indian Lady (preferably over 60) and in all likelyhood, their pleasantly lined faces will scrunch up into a grimace, coupled with the eyes crinkling in disgust and the nostrils crimping tightly shut as if the mere mention of the spice elicited an odor of skunk. For some reason, fennel (derogatorily mispronounced in Tamil as 'SOAMBU' , a deliberate corruption of the hindi 'Saunf') was always looked down upon in orthodox cooking, and the best way to add fuel to this fire is to cheekily point out the fact that the lump of asafetida that they hold so highly in regard is nothing but an extract of a wild variety of fennel!
I believe that Food & Festivals need no reason and had made this rice polo on the Persian new year day (Navroze) a couple of days back. The recipe makes use of fennel in3 forms, the bulb, marinaded & roasted along with shallots & pepper, a tempering of tender green fennel seeds with nigella & finally a liberal garnish of the fennel fronds. —Panfusine
Basmati rice, cleaned, rinsed & drained
Large Fennel bulb
shallots cut into thin strips or thin slices
sweet mini peppers cut into strips
Salt & freshly cracked peppercorn to taste
1 1/2 cups
Fresh green garbanzo (or frozen edamame)
Green fennel seeds
Fennel leaf fronds
Paprika or cayenne pepper powder (optional)
Melt the ghee in a heavy bottom pan. Add Basmati rice and toast in the ghee until it begins to emit a characteristic fragrant aroma.
Add the boiling water along with the salt, give the mixture a good stir to dislodge the grains that are holding on to the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to barely above a simmer, cover with a lid and allow the rice to cook & absorb all the liquid. (~ 20 minutes), Fluff and set aside.
Using a mandolin, slice the fennel bulb into thin slices. Reserve the fronds. combine fennel with the shallots and the sweet pepper in a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, and season with Salt & fresh crushed pepper. Using clean hands, toss the vegetables to coat evenly with the olive oil. Layer evenly on a baking sheet and roast in a 450 F oven until the shallots turn translucent and begin to caramelize. (~ 30 min)
Steam the Fresh green garbanzo (or edamame) until done and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl add 2 cups of rice, the steamed garbanzo and the roasted fennel, Shallot & pepper mix.
Heat the ghee until almost smoking and add the fennel & nigella seeds. once the fennel seeds 'split' (like cumin under similar conditions) pour this tempering into the rice mixture. You may add the paprika if you choose into the oil just before pouring it into the rice. Gently fold the mixture to combine the ingredients. Taste and adjust for seasoning with the salt & pepper. Garnish with the Fennel fronds & serve warm with tsatziki, raita or plain yogurt.