I love the magic of soup. With such a few ingredients you can create richly flavored and complex bowls of delight. And those bowls can be elegant and sophisticated or hearty and homey. I make this soup while I’m doing other things in the kitchen – cut the vegetables and roast them while putting the dishes away, simmer them in the broth while making a grocery list, blitz it all in the blender and your good to go. You can serve it directly, or cool, cover and refrigerate for several hours and gently reheat. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the preparation – the end result is amazing.
I am a latecomer to fennel but I absolutely love it. This simple soup is just pure fennel loveliness. Roasting brings out the flavor and a little onion highlights without overpowering. Any soup is made better by the addition of toasty cheesy bread, and here I like to add a little nutty parmesan and some green, herbal fennel fronds. The beautiful lacy, feathery fronds add so much flavor, never throw them all away. Sprinkle some finely chopped over the soup and add them to the crispy toasts. Little cups of this make an elegant starter, but big bowls with lots of cheese toasts and a green salad are a rustic meal.
Roasted Fennel Soup with Fennel Parmesan Toast
For the Soup:
1 large fennel bulb
1 large yellow onion
½ teaspoon fennel seed
4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
For the Toast:
½ cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
2 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fennel frond
8 (¼-inch) slices Italian bread
For the Soup:
Preheat the oven to 400°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Cut the stems and fronds from the fennel bulb, then halve the bulb and cut out the hard cor. Cut the into quarters and loosely separate the pieces. Place on the baking sheet. Peel the onion and qurter and separate the pieces and place on the pan. Drizzle over a little olive oil and toss just to coat the pieces – you do not want oil pooling on the pan. Sprinkle generously with salt, then roast until the fennel and onion are soft and lightly browned, about 30 minutes, flipping the pieces over about half way through. While the fennel is roasting, put the fennel seeds in a heavy duty ziptop bag and crush them with a rolling pin or meat mallet to a powder.
Transfer the vegetables to a large pot and pour over the broth. Add the crushed fennel seed and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cover the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly Transfer the soup to a blender (do this in batches if necessary, don’t over fill the blender). Vent the top of the blender and hold it down with a towel and blend until the soup is very smooth. Wipe out the pot and return the soup to it. Gently reheat until warm through. Season with salt to taste.
For the Toasts:
Preheat the oven to 425°. Mash the butter, cheese and fennel frond together in a small bowl. Seaosn with salt to taste. Spread the bread slices with the butter and place on a baking sheet lined with non-stick foil or parchment. Toast the bread for 5 minutes, then turn on the broiler and toast, watching closely, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.