Cooking with Fennel - Leek and Fennel Soup with smoked Cod

I'm not sure if I should confess this thing. However, I want to be honest with you. I've never cooked with fennel yet! Until now. Fennel is not really common in czech cuisine, and before moving to London, I had never even tasted this wonderful green friend. Yes. I fell in love. Fennel is my new favourite vegetable now. I bought about 10 fennel bulbs at a market last week and I started looking for recipes. I was really amazed by its versatile use. I've already tried three different dishes and they all were a huge success.

I was a little worried that P. wouldn't like fennel, but he took a liking to it same as I did. I didn't use it fresh though. I would say, using fresh fennel is a "second level" for us. So, next time. This time we had braised chicken with fennel, garlic and lemon, which was absolutely delicious. Then I made baked potatoes with fennel, pear and blue cheese inspired by the La Tartine Gourmande's recipe. And lastly, I tried a fennel soup because I so much love soups, especially in the winter. I can't decide which one of those three dishes was my favourite one. Actually, it must have been the soup. That's why I want to share it with you. I looked at several recipes but I didn't want to use potatoes or any alcohol for my soup. So I combined a few different recipes. I really liked the idea of a smoked cod in Bethany's recipe from the Dirty Kitchen Secrets.

Actually one more thing had happened which influenced my soup recipe. Rule number one: never leave a double cream opened and unsecured in your fridge! I'm sometimes very impetuous which usually leads to minor catastrophes. This time I opened my fridge to quickly. Oops! You can probably imagine the situation. Yes, the opened and unsecured double cream decided to leave the fridge too quickly too, leaving huge white tracks everywhere, for example on my cloths, in the fridge, on walls and on the floor. And I think I don't need to describe that double cream is not the easiest thing to clean up. This episode, however, had left me with only less than 50ml of double cream for my soup. Next time I might use a little bit more! :)

Leek and Fennel Soup
Serves 4

1 tbsp butter
2 small leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and chopped
1 shallot, chopped
3 large fennel bulbs, sliced
4 garlic cloves, halved
650ml chicken stock
50ml double cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
olive oil, to serve

2 smoked cod fillets
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp dried tarragon

1. Melt the butter in a heavy based large saucepan. Add the leeks and shallot and saute for about 5 minutes.

2. Add the fennel and garlic and fry gently for another 2 or 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the chicken stock and stir well. Cover, bring to the boil and cook gently for about 20 minutes until the fennel is tender.

4. Turn off the heat. Using a stick blender puree the soup completely until it's very smooth. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Reheat gently if needed.

5. Meanwhile, place the fish onto a baking tray and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and dried tarragon. Bake in a preheated oven at 150C for 15-20 minutes.

6. To serve, ladle the soup into plates or bowls. Divide the cod between the plates and drizzle over some olive oil.