So I used to do a lot of cooking. With the madness of the past two years, I got around to it less that I’d have liked, though recently I’ve managed to get a bit back into the swing of things. So, as I remember what normal life used to be like, I’m going to do my best to document a few of my personal recipes.
This first is one of my all-time favourites - it has moved around with me from country to country over the past decade or so. I’m pretty sure I learnt it back in York (gavofyork, geddit?), and it’s one of the very few pasta dishes I know that doesn’t get better with cheese. Crazy. If you want an Italian sounding name, we’ll call it pasta al finocchio e pancetta.
- One large fennel. Green dill-like leafy stuff intact.
- 8 thick slices of lean streaky bacon.
- One lemon.
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Olive oil
- Fresh egg pasta (or whatever you have)
Preheat the fan oven to 180C.
Take the fennel and slice the deep-green fingers coming out from the top about 3mm a piece.
Half the remaining body, remove the stalky bit at the centre bottom and throw it out. Slice length-ways into four pieces and slice each, again about 3mm a piece.
Put the lot into an oven roasting pan, cover with a generous amount of olive oil and toss with plenty of black pepper. Add a bit of salt if you’re into that sort of thing.
Using scissors, take each piece of bacon and chop, lengthwise, into 3mm-wide strips. Sprinkle them over the chopped fennel.
Trim both ends of the lemon and slice in six wedges. Remove the pips. Squeeze wedges over the contents of the roasting dish.
Toss the contents of the dish together well and finally place the spent lemon wedges on top of the lot.
Whack it on the middle shelf. Check back after 15–20 mins and mix everything up to save the top layer from burning. Keep doing so until fennel is nice and squidgy — takes 40–60 mins.
Once that’s nearly ready get some fresh egg-pasta (linguine is no bad choice) and boil it as you normally would (e.g. 5 mins, into plenty of fiercely boiling, possibly-salted, water).
Stir the contents of the roasting dish into the cooked, drained pasta and serve with additional black pepper.
Real men eat (what’s left of) the lemons, too. Yum.