Caramelized Fennel and Goat Cheese Flatbread

As some of you may remember, I have a significant foodie-crush on Yotam Ottolenghi. His “vibrant vegetable recipes” successfully took vegetarian cuisine out of the niche and into the mainstream, mostly due to the fact that he focuses on what the food is, not what it isn’t. Finally someone who gets it.

This recipe was inspired by one of Ottolenghi’s simpler dishes, caramelized fennel and goat’s cheese, which I thought would taste pretty spectacular on a flatbread base piled high with dressed greens. It was so incredibly tasty I felt that I needed to save it for a special occasion, so when the gorgeous Australian eco-lifestyle magazine, Peppermint, approached me to submit a recipe, I had this little number red hot and ready. 

Getting Fresh with Fennel
Fennel is one of my absolute favorite vegetables. It is crisp, fresh, and licorice-y, and fantastic both cooked and raw. I dig the fact that every part of fennel can be eaten, including the seeds, which are sweet and pungent. With a fantastic, flavour-concentrated crunch they add anise-like sparks to salads, curried stews, soups, and grain dishes. Looking for a natural breath-freshener? Chew on the seeds. They are delicious and really work.  

Fennel has been used as a healing food throughout history. Hippocrates prescribed fennel tea to stimulate milk production in nursing mothers, a “folk remedy” that is still used today. The English herbalist Nicholas Culpeper treated kidney stones, liver, lung ailments, and gout with fennel. Nutritionists today agree that fennel aids digestion, relieves flatulence, constipation, diarrhea, menstrual disorders, and helps treat anemia. [1]

Key nutrients in fennel include calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin A. The most fascinating phytonutrient compound in fennel, however, may be anethole—the primary component of its volatile oil. In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has repeatedly been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer. [2]


In this recipe, the fennel is caramelized with maple syrup instead of sugar, and tossed with its own seeds adding little fireworks of flavour. This combined with goats cheese creates the addictive salty-sweet combo I fall for every time. After baking, I like to pile on peppery greens – and I add a lot more than in the photo! Dressed with a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of citrusy olive oil and some flaky sea salt, this flatbread can make a delicious main, or cut it up into small bite-sized pieces perfect for an appetizer. It’s also amazing served cold, making an ideal accompaniment to frosty summer drinks on the back porch. 
The flatbread dough is a breeze to make, and any leftovers can be frozen. I like making a double batch, throwing half in the freezer for a quick, yet very impressive meal for unexpected guests. You can also add fresh or dried herbs to the dough for more flavour – rosemary and thyme are my favorites. Try kneading in a handful of toasted sesame, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds too. Fennel seeds? Excellent suggestion. I always like to have these basic, customizable recipes on file to dress up according to the season, the meal, or just what I am in the mood for. This flatbread is a delicious, easy base recipe to stash away or even memorize. 
Caramelized Fennel & Goat Cheese Flatbread
Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 batch spelt flatbread dough
1 batch caramelized fennel
100 grams / 3 oz. soft goats cheese
1 large bunch arugula
1 Tbsp. grapefruit-infused olive oil (regular olive oil is fine)
juice of ½ lemon
Spelt Flatbread
Makes 3-4  flatbreads
Ingredients:
2 ½ cups light spelt flour
1 cup whole spelt flour
1 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tbsp dry active yeast 
3 Tbsp. olive oil
a few pinches of flaky sea salt (Maldon is a good brand) 
Directions
1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl.
2. Dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of lukewarm water, add to flour and stir in with the oil.
3. Continue stirring until you have a uniform texture, then start kneading by hand in the bowl, or on a large, clean surface. Knead for 5 about minutes.
4. Cover ball of dough with flour and place underneath a damp towel for 1-2 hours until the volume is approximately double.
5. Divide dough for 4 small flatbreads, 2 large or 1 “party size”. Cover with a damp cloth until use. 
Caramelized Fennel 
Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe in Plenty
This can be done while you are waiting for your dough to rise.
Ingredients:
2 large fennel bulbs
ghee or coconut oil
sea salt
4 Tbsp. fennel seeds
4 Tbsp. maple syrup
Directions:
1. Wash the fennel and remove fronds. Slice the bulb thinly on the vertical (from top to the bulb base). 
2. Heat ghee or oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Place fennel slices on the pan, making sure that they all come into contact with the surface of the skillet (not overlapping). Sprinkle with sea salt. Do not stir or move the fennel for a few minutes, until golden on the bottom side. When all the pieces have browned, flip onto the uncooked side. When the underside has also browned, add a sprinkling of fennel seeds and 1/2 tablespoon of maple syrup, let cook for 1 minute. Toss to coat, remove fennel from pan and repeat until all the fennel is cooked. Season to taste.
To Assemble
1. Preheat to 350°F. Place a cookie sheet or baking stone in the oven while it comes up to temperature.
2. Roll out a desired portion of flatbread dough on a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and roll to press into the dough. Add caramelized fennel, and drops of goat’s cheese. Remove stone from oven and slide the parchment on top. Bake flatbread for approximately 30 minutes until the crust is golden and cheese has slightly browned.
3. While the flatbread is baking, prepare the arugula for serving. Wash and spin dry. Drizzle with grapefruit-infused olive oil and lemon juice. Toss to coat. Season to taste. 
4. Remove flatbread from oven, let cool slightly and pile high with dressed arugula. Serve immediately. Share and enjoy.   

If you live in Australia, pick up this season’s issue of Peppermint magazine. It is a beautiful publication and one I am very proud to be featured in. Thank you Peppermint! I am honored. 

Sources: [1] Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Dietary Wellness.
[2] whfoods.com

Copyright 2012 My New Roots at mynewroots.blogspot.com

54 comments

  1. Sandra Holt

    Washing mushrooms bad and salting beans bad.???

    Alton Brown on Food Network spent one (very old 1/2 hour) show disproving that washing is bad and that mushrooms don’t soak up the water.
    I tried to find a link, but didn’t. I wrote to the site to see if Alton could resubmit the information. Haven’t heard back.
    I might hear back if some of you write too.

    Salting and soaking beans turns out to be the better way to get flavor into bean without toughness.. See the test done by America’s Test
    Kitchen and their bean recipes using the method.

    Searing meat was once though to keep juices in. I have learned many myths by my Mom’s knee in her kitchen; one was that she didn’t have boney knees.

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  9. Karuna

    Hey Sarah, have you ever tried using water kefir grains in place of yeast for breads, I do so at home all the time now, its a fantastic replacement, I don’t even do the yeast proofing, just throw in all the ingredients, add warm water (as per measurement) and kneed away. bread rises amazingly well!!!

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  11. Mandy

    Discovered you in Peppermint magazine and have explored your site in detail. The fennel flat bread is divine! The latest trend in aus is fructose free, so I replaced the honey with rice syrup in the muffins and the granola. So good!

  12. Jim DiPasquale

    As a second generation Sicilian American, I am accustomed to fennel in many recipes and quite often use it simply cut into small slivers mixed into a salad, to munch on after dinner, in the wonderful Pasta le Con Sarde ( a sauce made with fennel, sultanas, capers and sardines ) sometimes mixed with a meatless tomato sauce, or to finely chop with minced carrots and chopped garlic sauteed to flavor a tomato sauce, or thinly slice with navel oranges and extra virgin olive oil. Another plus is that it is available year round.

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  17. Jan C

    Has anyone tried to use garbanzo flour or brown rice flour instead of spelt? I am on a strict cleanse for the next six weeks and can’t have any type wheat products. I received fresh fennel and goat cheese in my coop basket this week. This looks YUMMY!!!!!

    • Sandra Holt

      The King Arthur baking site has a lot of gluten free recipes and mixes. They also have bakers on line to answer questions.

  18. Alex Staff

    This looks enticing! It’s like a vegetarian pizza but with a twist because of the goat cheese in it. Thank goodness Hippocrates used fennel as a remedy, and it can be used to make good food just like this recipe. I’ve enjoyed reading its historical account. Chef Yotam Ottolenghi is famous for his vegetable dishes like the pasta and fried zucchini salad.

  19. Modini

    Thank you again for a great recipe! I made this yesterday, and it was just simply delicious…I loved it. Had only feta cheese (from goat & sheep) on hand, Im sure you are thinking of a more soft cheese, like chevre, but it worked out very well with the feta, though I imagine with a more soft, becomes more melted, is even more delicious. Anyway, this was awesome! I love the flatbread too, very easy to pull together. Thank yo so much for your always well measured and clear recipes, I have tried out many of them now and it always turns out good! Not to mention the Raw Brownie….and the Roasted Red Pepper w/Chickpeas…again a hit.. Thank you!!

  20. Jenné @ Sweet Potato Soul

    Oh my Gosh, I am just seeing this recipe! I have to make this. Fennel is one of my favorite veggies! I pick up Plenty when I’m at the bookstore and always get so many ideas from it. Don’t ask why I don’t own the book already; lol!

  21. Sophia

    Hi,

    A long-time lurker but now I felt compelled to comment: I am a huge fan of Ottolenghi (and fortunate enough to live within walking distance of his cafe in Angel, though I still have not made it to NoPi), I have recently developed quite a strong obsession with all things fennel (both in savoury and in sweet dishes), I have just started experimenting with Spelt flour (which I am loving so far) and those flatbreads combining the sweet liquoricelike taste of fennel with creamy and salty goat’s cheese on a flatbread – divine!

    Oh and those raw brownies you posted a while ago ? Amazing! I have tried a few storebought raw brownies and none of them compare – and I taste-tested your recipe on my boyfriend and he was shocked how fudgy and chocolatey they were despite not containing any white sugar.

    All the best

    Sophia

  22. M.

    I’m planning on making this tomorrow, but I’m a bit confused about the measurments. Am I supposed to use 1/2 Tbs or 4 Tbs of maple syrup? Same goes for the fennel seeds, a sprikle or 4 Tbs?

  23. Anne

    Hi Sarah,
    I (re)discovered your blog last weekend. Made the fennel flatbread and the raw brownie. They both were a big hit. The fennel was so delicious, I couldn’t stop munching away little pieces while cooking. It does equally well with or without flatbread. So happy to know something so tasty can be so healthy.

  24. Jana

    BIG congrats on the article…you are amazing!

    about the recipe:its the first time you actually write about a veggie I dont like…me and the fennel-hmmmmmm;I dont really like bitter veggies, although my osteopathe lately told me I should eat tons of them…does the maple syrup actually help remove a bit of the bitterness?is there any other trick how to start eat/love bitter veggies like fennel, raddicchio, etc…?:-)
    thanks in advance!

    tons of sunny+salty greetings from bella Sardegna to Canada!

  25. Christina

    Hi there Sarah. I recently started drinking goat milk thanks to your very convincing posts on the subject. I already love the taste and I think I’m hooked. I was wondering if you have ever covered the topic of pasteurization. The only brand of goat’s milk available at my usual grocery store is labeled as “ultra-pasteurized”. I believe this process must kill many beneficial bacteria and enzymes from the milk, would you agree? Do you know of any potential harmful effects of this process? I don’t go through a lot of milk as a single girl and I appreciate this brand’s long refrigerated shelf life. Am I missing out on the whole point of goat’s milk here? Should I try to find a supplier that is unpasteurized?

    • Sandra Holt

      Pasteurized is for the convenience of the supplier in that it makes it safe to sit around, but that process is really cooking the milk.
      Raw & organic goat milk is best, and it can be frozen. It is pricey, but it is still an ALIVE product. I would like to send info about the alive vs. dead, but I have long since lost all those many research papers I read. There is probably more and better research info out there now anyway. 15 years is a long time when it comes to research work.

  26. Sasha

    Ottolenghi is certainly some kind of wonderful and so is the idea of caramelizing fennel (with maple syrup nonetheless)! I cannot wait to try this.

    One thing that i find interesting about Ottolenghi’s approach to food is that he is not a vegetarian yet he has built his success as a chef based on vegetarian food (surely this has not happened too often). I think that he has set quite the example in getting passionate meat-eaters to think differently about vegetables, pulses and the like,, as well as how a meal is constructed (far beyond one main and two veg – thank goodness). Yay for Ottolenghi and yay for caramelized fennel (and for My New Roots, of course!

  27. Elenore (E)

    Very special occasion indeed! What an amazing article + photos + recipe that was in peppermint! You are gorge peeking into the oven;) <3

    LOVE LIGHT LAUGHTER

  28. Stacy

    Your foodie-crush is well warranted, to be sure! And this looks like an absolutely delicious meal made from components I love: fennel, arugula, goat cheese, things made with spelt. I shall tuck this away, surely! Congrats on the recipe in Peppermint.

  29. Liz B

    Fennel… love, goats cheese… love, love! Combined to make a special dinner treat, ohhh can’t wait to try!! Thanks always for the inspiration! x

  30. autumn

    I too have a major food crush on Ottolenghi and was SO excited when I found out he had a new book coming out soon. I just tried anise hyssop for the first time recently, which is also a licourice-y flavor. Very good although probably not for pizza 🙂 I love the flavor combos here!

  31. Harriet

    I was looking at this recipe in Plenty just this week, and I saw your recipe in Peppermint, and now your blogpost – I think it’s a sign!!

  32. Kirsty

    Lovely. Just lovely. I can’t wait to try this! I love fennel (and all things licorice flavoured) but it seems I’m in the minority amongst my peers – more for me I guess!

  33. Lauren

    Sarah!
    This, yet again, looks spectacular. Thank you for sharing all of your creative genius and knowledge on everything healthy. I love it all!

    Okay so question.. When I make the flatbread dough and freeze half of it, should I thaw it in the refrigerator or is room temperature ok?

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