How to make: Roasted fennel

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Ayehsa Kalaji the Queen of Cups: How to make roasted fennel

Related tags Food Chef Gastropub

Veg doesn't need to be shunned away to a side dish but can proudly take centre stage, and Ayesha Kalaji's roasted fennel recipe proves just that.

Kalaji, who's head chef at the Queen of Cups in Glastonbury, loves fennel. She said: "It is vastly underused and seems to only inhabit the world of fish garnish or shaved in a salad. It can be so much more than this. It's flavoursome, aesthetically beautiful and an absolute delight as a main feature or as a side dish. It needs to be celebrated more. This recipe makes a lovely addition to a selection of small plates or piled high together to make a larger dish.

"I was fortunate enough to learn a lot about vegetable cooking at my time at the vegetarian restaurant Bubala, and now I’m keen to sing the praises of veg. This dish was originally a special for Mother’s Day last year at my gastropub the Queen of Cups, but now pops up on the specials menu regularly."

Keeping with her pantry of Middle Eastern flavours, Kalaji infuses the dish with arak for that extra burst of aniseed flavour. Yeasted buckwheat also adds a delicious umami crunch.

Kalaji added: "And the caraway labneh! My goodness, I could eat this by the spoonful. I use a local organic yogurt supplier to make my labneh, and I swear you can taste the hay and grass they eat. It smells a bit like farm, but in the best way possible! Using locally sourced produce makes all the difference when showcasing produce in my opinion. If you do not have local farms available to you, find high quality suppliers.

"The Urfa oil adds a an almost chocolatey quality with its incredible deep notes. It’s an amazing varietal of chilli that has such complex sweet notes.

"Pair this with a full-bodied white wine for a touch of decadence, or a ginger based cocktail to cut thorough all the butter and yogurt."

The cost of the dish is around £2.45, depending on suppliers, and Kalaji sold it at £10.50 a portion.

Glasto gastronomy: Ayesha is head chef at the Queen of Cups


Fennel stock:

  • 2.25L white wine
  • 50ml arak – Middle Eastern anise spirit. Kalaji favours Haddad or Musar
  • 250g butter
  • 20g fennel seeds
  • 30g coriander seeds
  • 6 strands of saffron
  • 2tbsp warm water
  • 10 heads of fennel
  • Agave

Urfa Oil:

  • 200g rapeseed oil or any neutral oil
  • 100g Urfa chilli paste – Kalaji uses belazu

Carraway Labneh:

  • 1kg Labneh
  • 25g carraway seeds

Yeasted buckwheat:

  • 250g buckwheat
  • 50g nutritional yeast


  • Micro coriander
  • Aleppo chilli

Fennel stock

  1. Toast the seeds until fragrant in a frying pan. While doing this, soak the saffron in two tablespoons of warm water. In a separate pan add the wine, toasted spiced and saffron. Slowly add the butter, whisking as you go to incorporate.
  2. Chill, and whisk while cooling if the mix looks like it is about to split.
  3. Slice the fennel in half. Place them in a roasting tray, cut side up. Pour over half a ladle of the stock mix per fennel half and season. Save any leftover fennel stock.
  4. Cover with foil and roast for 25 minutes. Remove the foil roast for another 10-20 minutes depending on how large the fennel are. A knife should just pass through them.
  5. Chill and place to one side, pouring off and reserving any leftover stock.

Urfa Oil

  1. Blend together oil and Urfa chilli paste on high and put in a squeezer.

Carraway Labneh

  1. Toast the carraway seeds and grind.
  2. Combine with the labneh.

Yeasted buckwheat

  1. Rinse the buckwheat and then cook in boiling water for six minutes.
  2. Once cooked through rinse off any scum attached to the buckwheat.
  3. Deep fry at 180 till crispy, ensuring the buckwheat doesn’t clump in the fryer. I fry it in a chinois for ease.
  4. Once fried, allow to cool on a j-cloth or blue paper to remove any excess oil.
  5. Once cool, blend in a Robo or similar blender with the nutritional yeast till it has broken down a little. We still want large crunch, but to break it down a little.

In service

  • Heat a pan to a medium high heat with oil.
  • Place the fennel cut side down and dry till there is beautiful caramelisation on the face of the fennel.
  • Flip over and add a ladle of the stock and butter – about 120ml and 1 tbsp of agave.
  • Reduce the liquid till it creates a thick glaze.
  • Add a heaped tbsp of the carraway labneh onto a plate.       
  • Place the fennel in the centre of the well and pour the reduced glaze over.
  • Garnish with the micro coriander and yeasted buckwheat. Finally pour some urfa chilli oil over it and sprinkle with a little Aleppo chili for colour and pops of flavour.

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