Fennel I think is one of those things that people either love or hate, and for the longest time I hated it. I had eaten fennel in all sorts of ways trying to condition myself to enjoy it’s potent and aromatic flavor. I’d eaten it roasted, raw, sauteed, as a seasoning, as a spice as a seed but to no avail. There was absolutely nothing about fennel that ever succeeded in charming me, in fact I found it to taste quite a bit like licorice which I also dislike.
Then about a month or so ago I came across a recipe that required caramelized Fennel. Desperate to make the recipe I decided this would be my last dance with the culturally and historically rich foodstuff and if again I disliked it then I would never again attempt to enjoy it. To say that recipe was a success would be an understatement, and in fact the caramelized fennel was one of the best things about it. I dreamed of fennel afterwards it was that good! Newly won over to this intricate little bulb I’ve been playing around a bit with fennel in my cooking lately. I’ve made a few soups and stir-fries all of which were tasty but because I’m so ignorant as to what flavor combinations go well with fennel I’m still going through the learning curve stage.
However last week I did develop the most delicious soup recipe. It wildly exceeded my expectations and was the perfect accompaniment to a cold night. My husband and I huddled around the kitchen table with the wind howling outside and gulped down two huge steaming bowls of soup each. So delicious is the combination of fennel and kale that we could barely stop eating long enough to get a conversation in.
Aside from the great flavor of this soup there is the added benefit of it being relatively low fat and super packed with all sorts of antioxidant goodness thanks for the fennel, kale and garlic. I highly recommend it, and if you’re a fennel hater like I was I implore you to eat it caramelized with a bit of Agave, I swear you’ll never think of it in the same way again.
Caramelized Fennel and Kale Soup
2 tsp Olive Oil
18 Cloves Garlic minced
2 Bunches Kale
2 Fennel Bulbs sliced thin
1 Red Onion sliced thin
4 C Vegetable Broth
3 C Water
3-4 Tbsp Agave Nectar
2-3 tsp Gram Masala
2 Tbsp Fennel Leaves minced
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
- First start by caramelizing your fennel and onion. Slice them very thin either using a knife or a mandolin as I did. Heat 1 tsp of the olive oil in a large pan over medium then add the sliced fennel and onion. Saute for about 10-20 minutes stirring briefly every 5 minutes or so to make sure the fennel doesn’t burn. If oil evaporates you can add in a bit more or use water instead as I did. Keep sauteeing until the fennel and onion turn a nice golden color. 5 or so minutes before the fennel is done add in 2 tbsp of the agave and stir until well combined. When finished caramelizing remove from the heat and set aside.
- Meanwhile heat remaining tsp of olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat and add minced garlic. Saute for 5-7 minutes until softened, fragrant and starting to turn golden.
- Add vegetable broth into the pot with the garlic and add the caramelized fennel and onion mixture. Stir to combine then bring to a boil.
- Tear or cut your kale into bite sized pieces removing the stems. Add the kale to the pot with the broth and reduce heat to let simmer. Stir in the kale. There will be a lot of kale so it’ll probably take some stirring to incorporate it all into the pot, but don’t worry it’ll get there. If soup is becoming too thick add in water 1 cup at a time. Depending on how large your fennel and kale are you may not need all the water or you may need a bit more.
- Once all kale and water has been incorporated add in the gram masala, salt, pepper and remaining tbsp of agave (optional) stir to combine and let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes until kale is wilted and bright green. You don’t want to over cook it, you want the kale to retain a little bit of texture.
- Serve with some crusty bread to dip into the broth and enjoy!