Potato and Fennel Gratin

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This lovely gratin is my idea of absolute comfort food: you want to cook it low and slow in the oven until the vegetables are soft and almost melting away. I add a little butter and oil for richness, but the base of the gratin is a light vegetable stock. You can omit the butter completely for a dairy-free version. These quantities are ideal for a big family lunch, serving 6-8 people, depending on hunger levels! So for a smaller version I have also included half quantities. The recipe can also be made and cooked ahead, then finished off for a final cook in the oven. So if you are having friends over, you can prep ahead.

 

serves 6-8 people

  • 2 whole fennel bulbs, washed and trimmed

  • 1 lemon, juice only

  • 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil

  • 900g potatoes, washed and peeled

  • 15g-20g fresh thyme, leaves only

  • ground black pepper

  • 300ml vegetable stock, homemade/ or no-salt-added vegetable stock, warmed

  • 20g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

serves 3-4 people

  • 1 whole fennel bulb, washed and trimmed

  • 1 lemon, juice only

  • 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil

  • 450g potatoes, washed and peeled

  • 8g-10g fresh thyme, leaves only

  • ground black pepper

  • 150ml vegetable stock, homemade/ or no-salt-added vegetable stock, warmed

  • 20g unsalted butter, cut into cubes

 

Preheat the oven to 170C (fan oven)

Quarter the fennel, removing the woody core, then thinly slice the remaining bulb and add the fennel slices to a bowl. Dress with the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and black pepper; then set aside

Next peel the potatoes and thinly slice, either by hand or using a mandolin /I also like this hand held version (both affiliate links).

You are now ready to start assembling the gratin: take an oven proof dish that is a good size for the gratin. You want to be able to pack the vegetables in tightly and create several layers (so the dish needs to be deep enough). Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the bottom, and spread over the bottom of the dish. This will prevent the vegetables sticking. Next add a layer of the dressed fennel, then an even layer of the thinly sliced potatoes, so that they overlap one another and there are no visible gaps. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and a grind of fresh black pepper. Then repeat.

Once the dish is full, pour over the warm stock and dot the top layer with butter (if using). Wrap the gratin tightly in tin foil and place in the middle rack of the oven, for 1 hours cooking time.

If you are prepping ahead you can now set aside the dish to cool,

and finish later.

If not, remove the foil and return to the oven for a final 30 minutes. Still on the middle shelf of the oven. Test with a sharp knife, the fennel and potatoes should be completely soft and tender. Cool a little and serve.

 
veggiesMiriam Cooper