Whether enjoyed as an aromatic herb, as a vegetable or as seeds, Fennel is used for a diverse range of culinary purposes across the world; the dried seeds are used as a spice, the fennel bulb can be prepared in salads or baked into bread and the feathery leaves feature in many fish and soup recipes.
Whichever part of the plant is used, the sweet, aniseed flavour of fennel means it will always make its presence felt in any recipe. It doesn’t just have a distinctive taste, though – fennel can offer a number of health benefits too. It is claimed to have antioxidant effects, reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol, while the bulb is packed with Vitamin C to boost immune systems.
Fennel also happens to be one of the most important spices in Gujarati cooking, where it is known as Variyali, or Saunf in Hindi. Here are some notable fennel recipes which originate from Gujarati cuisine.
This recipe also features another popular Gujarati ingredient, the bottle gourd, which is otherwise known as a calabash or doodhi. Doodhi muthia taste great as a savoury teatime snack and the name derives from “muthi” which is Gujarati for “fist”, which those making it will use in order to form the dough into thin rolls.
Doodhi muthia dough is made by combining grated bottle gourd, onions, wheat flour, semolina, gram flour, ginger-chilli paste, turmeric, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, asafoetida, lemon juice, sugar and coriander. The rolls are then cooked in a steamer and then garnished with coriander and grated coconut.
Variyali sharbat is not only a refreshing and cooling drink, it is also very healthy, with claims that it can improve digestion and enhance appetite. One of the ways to make this sharbat involves soaking fennel crushed seeds in water overnight. The next day, the mixture is boiled and allowed to cool. Once at room temperature the mixture is churned into a paste by adding sugar. The paste is then strained into a glass and topped up with ice and chilled water and flavoured with salt and lemon juice to taste.
Dakor Na Gota
These little fried Pakoras are made from chickpea flour and are often enjoyed at breakfast or as an addition to a Gujarati thali. While there are plenty of gota recipes, those from Dakor (a city in Gujarat) are said to be the best.
Dakor na gota are made by combining gram flour, semolina, ginger-green chilli paste, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, chilli powder, garam masala, fennel seeds, crushed white peppercorns, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, lemon juice, oil and coriander into a batter.
After the batter has been whisked thoroughly, the fritters are deep fried in oil until they turn golden and then served with a chutney, such as a date or mint chutney.
If these Gujarati treats have got you in the mood for an authentic Indian meal in a contemporary London setting, there are a number of restaurants where you will be able to sample a range of recipes from across India.