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Baked Fennel Gratinati

ingredients

serves 4
4 heads fennel
30 g (1 oz) 2 tbsp butter
Bechamel Sauce (see below), enriched with 2 egg yolks
150 ml (1/4 pint) 1/2 cup dry white wine
30 g (1 oz) 1/2 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
salt and pepper
fennel fronds, to garnish

method

1. Remove any bruised or tough outer stalks of fennel and cut each head in half.

2. Put into a saucepan of boiling salted water and simmer for 20 minutes until tender then drain.

3. Butter an ovenproof dish liberally and arrange the drained fennel in it.

4. Mix the wine into the white sauce and season to taste. Pour over the fennel.

5. Sprinkle evenly with the breadcrumbs and then the Parmesan.

6. Place in a preheated oven, 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6, and bake for 20 minutes until the top is golden. Serve garnished with fennel fronds.

bechamel sauce

300 ml (1/2 pint)1 1/4 cups milk
2 bay leaves
3 cloves
1 small onion
60 g (2 oz) 1/4 cup butter, plus extra for greasing
45 g (1 1/2 oz) 6 tbsp flour
300 ml (1/2 pint) 1 1/4 cups single (light) cream
large pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper

1. Pour the milk into a small pan and add the bay leaves. Press the cloves into the onion, add to the pan and bring the milk to the boil. Remove from the heat and set it aside to cool.

2. Strain the milk into a jug and rinse the pan. Melt the butter in the pan and stir in the flour. Stir for 1 minute, then gradually pour on the milk, stirring constantly.

3. Cook the sauce for 3 minutes, then pour on the cream and bring it to the boil Remove from the heat and season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

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