Late summer is the time for artichokes, courgettes, peppers and aubergines. Once considered exotic, these Mediterranean staples are now rudimentary household ingredients.

There is one Mediterranean favourite, however, that has not endeared itself to the nation quite so successfully: fennel. This is a real shame, because fennel offers us so much.

In a world of food fads and hyperbole, perhaps fennel would have fared better if it was known by its full name, Florence fennel. What is certain is that this versatile vegetable, crunchy and assertive when raw, sweet and yielding when cooked, has a distinct aniseed tang that will add a real depth of flavour to your dishes.

In this month’s recipe I have used fennel to enhance a classic Malaysian soup. To make the laksa paste, simply chop one inch of peeled ginger and two sticks of lemongrass. Blitz it in a food processor with two red chillis (remove the seeds if you don’t want it too hot), two cloves of garlic, one shallot, a teaspoon of ground coriander and a slug of vegetable oil, until it reaches a fine paste.

Crab, fennel & coconut laksa with noodles, bok choy & Thai basil

  • Prep Time 25
  • Cook Time 15
  • Serves 4


3 tablespoons laksa paste
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
800ml coconut milk
600ml chicken, vegetable or fish stock
100ml soy sauce
50ml fish sauce
1 fennel bulb, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
250g noodles, pre-cooked and refreshed in iced water
2 bok choy, roughly chopped
3 spring onions, finely sliced
250g white crab meat
Lime juice
Purple or Thai basil
Crispy shallots – 1 shallot, sliced thin and fried till crispy
Heat a large pot and gently sauté the paste for 1 minute, stirring well.
Add the tamarind, stock, coconut milk, soy sauce and fish sauce and bring to the boil, then add the fennel and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the noodles and bok choi, simmer for 2 minutes, then add the crab meat and a good squeeze of lime juice.
Sprinkle over the spring onions, crispy shallots and basil. Serve.

By Guy Awford

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