Recipe Tag: fennel



Dolmas, dolmades or dolmathes are found throughout Greece, Turkey and the Middle East (dolma is from the Turkish word for ‘stuffed’). I spent a few weeks sailing around the Greek islands on a trip I’ll never forget: that vast expanse of sea, beautifully desolate islands, the cruise ship that managed to drag up our anchor in Mykonos and nearly take us out with it, or the sound of the waves echoing off our anchorage in Santorini. Coming into a port was always a joy, seeing the local fishing boats and their catches, although I was horrified at how small they were and wondered if they could make a living out it. Fish was expensive and sparse (although I did make sure I got my fair share of sardines and octopus).

But the two things I became obsessed with were the smaller side dishes of gigantes plaki – large white beans in a thick tomato sauce – and dolmades wrapped in grape leaves. Add some ouzo or a rough retsina and I was hooked. I was (and still am) happy to buy dolmades tinned, but there is nothing quite like making them yourself.

It’s still a little early in my garden for fresh grape leaves of a reasonable size (and I’m never organised enough to blanch and freeze them), so I tend to use silverbeet leaves for an easy wrapper. Traditionally served warm with an avgolemono sauce of egg yolks, broth and lemon, I prefer the ease of the yoghurt and tahini sauce served here.



In my household, gratin is devoured greedily; the youngest is likely to go for double helpings so I always tend to make a lot. It’s an easy recipe to cut down if you need too, but also a brilliant dish for taking to a potluck. I tend to assume there will be at least one vegetarian, so use a vegetable stock rather then chicken. If I know there are vegans or people on a dairy-free regime present then I omit all the dairy, using oil in place of butter, increasing the vegetable stock to replace the cream and instead of the cheese I will often top the gratin with lightly oiled panko crumbs.



Although buckwheat is not an overly common ingredient in Greek food, it acts as the perfect high-protein base for this lemon and herb-kissed salad. You’ll find whole raw buckwheat at selected supermarkets or health-food stores.
For salads like this, where you don’t want excess moisture, I like to scrape the seeds from the cucumber using a teaspoon first. It might seem pedantic but it’s well worth the extra few minutes of prep, and I simply eat the scraped seeds as a little pre-meal snack, so there’s no food waste either.


Braised Fennel with Crispy Chickpeas & Saffron Basmati

This dish is packed with flavour and is light but also very comforting. The braised fennel is based on a recipe in Deborah Madison’s cookbook Vegetable Literacy, however I’ve used ghee in place of olive oil and butter, and simplified the dish a little. If you’d like to keep this plant-based, use olive oil instead of ghee – though not quite as flavourful, it’s still delicious. If you’re soaking and cooking dried chickpeas, allow at least one day before cooking to soak.

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