Vegetarian Leek, Fennel and Potato Gratin

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Vegetarian Recipe = Leek, Fennel and Potato Gratin

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, halved lengthways, thinly sliced and washed
1 tsp ground fennel seed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large fennel bulbs, quartered lengthways, cored and thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp each of fresh flat-leaf parsley, thyme and marjoram, chopped
300ml cream
300ml Milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp peppercorns
12 tsp fennel seeds
3 fresh thyme sprigs
85g Gruyere, grated
20z Parmesan cheese, grated
675g large floury potatoes, peeled and sliced
20 black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan; add the leeks, ground fennel, salt and a few pinches of pepper.
Cook over a medium heat until the leeks are heated through, then cover the pan and steam until wilted, about eight minutes. Add the sIced fennel, garlic and salt (if desired) and cook until the fennel is tender, about 95 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl and toss with half the chopped herbs.
While the leeks and fennel are cooking, pour the cream and milk into a small saucepan. Add the bay leaf, peppercorns, whole fennel seed and thyme. Heat the cream over a low heat for 15 minutes. Strain and season well. Pre-heat the oven to 190’ C/375 F gas 5 and lightly oil a 23cm x 33cm (9in x l3in) baking dish. Mix the cheese. Layer a third of the potatoes in the bottom of the dish, overlapping the slices and rows as you go. Generously season the potatoes.
Add the olives, ha f the leek mixture and a third of the cheese. Make another layer of potatoes, season again and add the remaining leeks and fennel and a third of the cheese. Top with a final layer of potatoes and pour the hot cream over. Cover the dish and bake for 40 minutes.
Remove the cover, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake, uncovered, until the potatoes are very tender and the gratin (cheese topping) turns golden and a little crisp, about another 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped herbs just before serving. Enjoy with warm, crusty bread.