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.
This is not the most attractive dish as the milk curdles into rich dark nuggets, but it is flavoursome and homely. It’s usually cooked with a loin, but I prefer to use a shoulder cut. If it comes with skin I usually remove it and make some crackling. Depending on the coarseness of the grain, the polenta can use more liquid than most instructions specify. I use a rough ratio of 1 part polenta to 5-6 parts water, but if you keep some boiling water on hand you can adjust the consistency if necessary. I’ve used a vegetable stock for the polenta but you can use chicken stock or milk if you prefer.
I consider the gatherings where friends or relatives sit down to share a meal as integral to the consideration of family.