The thought of swapping sweet and savoury in dishes doesn’t really appeal to me. A dessert pizza or a sweet soup are interesting concepts but I can’t help but feel that a regular pizza or a savoury soup simply tastes superior. However, I have had to put aside my preconceptions as Ottolenghi’s crumble in the form of a fennel and tomato gratin made me completely forget any longing I may have had for the traditional dessert of fruit crumble. Apparently this dish was created as a result of the chef at Ottolenghi stealing some of the pastry department’s crumble dish. Perhaps it was a happy accident but the sweetness of the crumble combines perfectly with the aniseed fennel to make this a perfect accompaniment to a Sunday roast. Just don’t serve crumble for dessert as well, it may be crumble overkill.
1-3 fennel bulbs thinly sliced
1 tbsp thyme leaves and a few whole sprigs
3 garlic cloves crushed
100g Parmesan cheese grated
300g cherry tomatoes on the vine
Salt and pepper to season
300g plain flour
100g caster sugar
200g cold unsalted butter cubed
1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the fennel in a bowl with a splash of olive oil, thyme leaves, garlic, salt and pepper to season and mix together.
2. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and pour the cream over the fennel.
3. Meanwhile combine the ingredients for the crumble topping in a bowl and rub the butter into the sugar and flour until there are no chunks of butter left. Mix the grated parmesan into the crumble mixture and then sprinkle on top of the fennel dish.
4. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 mins. Remove the foil and arrange the tomatoes on top along with a few thyme sprigs. Return to the oven and bake for another 15 mins or until the fennel is soft and the grain is a golden brown.
Tip: When you are buying fennel look for fennel that still has the feathery tops on. If they are sprightly looking then the fennel is fresh, but if the tops are limp and wet try to avoid.
Adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. This is my contribution to Waiter There’s Something In My … Sweet and Savoury Swap.