It’s fascinating what can be the source of inspiration for a particular meal. Of course, a specific recipe book or a browse around the farmers market or a food store, are the most common ones. But this particular recipe, perhaps unexpectedly was inspired by a plate. Browsing homeware store like Heal’s is my guilty pleasure. I never knew how obsessive I can get with tableware! There’s a term widely used in film studies, particularly in relay in to the portrayal of women in classical Hollywood cinema – scopophilia (the pleasure of looking). Well, when I came across a display of hand made tableware collection by a South African designer, Mervyn Gers, I got a mean case of scopophilia. Who knew that a plate could have such a strong appeal. Pricey it was, but I just knew I had to have one (well, OK, two). So I brought my new treasure home, getting excited at the thought of what wonders can be served on these plates. It was the cool off-white elegance of its simplicity with a slight quirky touch of uneven edges that inspired the idea for a dish: new potatoes, fennel and artichokes braised in lots of butter and lemon juice, generously sprinkled with dill and olive oil. It turned out beautifully monochrome and perfectly multi-layered in flavour from sharp, to earthy, and creamy. This was just the perfect marriage between the pleasure of looking and the pleasure of eating.
Since then this meal has become a regular on my table and on the particular plate. It goes beautifully with any white fish as well as on its own. Here’s what I did, and strongly encourage you to do the same.
Makes 4 portions
2 medium fennels
12 medium/small new potatoes
1 small white onion
a huge bunch of dill
Extra virgin olive oil
Cut each potato in half lengthwise
Thinly slice the fennel (lengthwise) and onion
Core the artichoke to the heart (you can just buy cored artichokes in olive oil, if feeling lazy or pressed for time)
Heat the butter in a large pan and place the potatoes in a layer, sprinkle with salt and fry for 5 minutes.
Top it with fennel, onion and sliced artichokes hearts, add more salt, lemon juice, a bit of water, cover with lid and cook on medium heat for 30-40 minutes or until all ingredients are cooked through. Keep adding water and butter if needed.
Top with lemon slices and sprinkle with dill lots of dill and olive oil and cook further for 5 minutes.
If making as a side to fried fish, then give yourself extra 5-10 minutes to prepare the fish too. I used a fillet of sea bream here.
Make 3 incisions on the fish skin, salt on both sides and place in a pre-heated pan with olive oil and butter, skin side down. Cover with a lid and fry on medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes. The skin will get wonderfully crispy and golden while the white flesh will remain soft and moist. No need to turn over.
Plan the cooking so that both dishes are ready at the same time.
Once both are good to go place them a gorgeous plate (take a picture *optional) and enjoy. Voila!