Fennel together with zucchini and star anise combines into a creamy and silky soup with a delicate anise-like aroma full with nutrients and fibres.
Fennel is a vegetable that is often used raw in salads, roasted, or grilled to eat as a side dish. It’s also a vegetable that works perfectly in soups, either combined with other ingredients or with fennel as the mayor component. What I like about fennel in a soup with just one or two accompanying ingredients is that the soup comes out silky smooth with this off-white colour, which just invites you to dig in.
What part of the fennel do you use for soup?
The white part of the fennel bulb has a mild taste of liquorice whereas the green stalks and fronds have a more outspoken aroma. Also, if you are mixing the fennel bulb with another colourful ingredient like carrots or tomatoes, you can use the green parts. For this recipe, I’d like to maintain the whitish colour of the fennel and so will only use the white part of the fennel bulb.
You don’t have to throw away the green part of the fennel. If you like the stronger anise-like flavour, you can always use it in a salad, when making a vegetable stock or use it to make this: Oven roasted fennel with carrots. You can also keep the green fennel fronds for decoration when serving the soup and for additional flavour.
Why star anise and fennel pair really well
Star anise is a star shaped pod with a sweet anise-like flavour. Besides that, it is one of the most pretty looking spices and has a wonderful and delicate aroma. The taste of star anise is very similar to fennel so they work really well together in cooking. When adding a star anise while cooking the fennel soup, it will mildly enhance the flavour of the soup.
How to make fennel soup with zucchini and star anise
Although this is a recipe for fennel soup, I have added some zucchini to thicken the soup. I normally always add a bit of zucchini or potatoes when I make soup as a thickener. I don’t like to add cornstarch, flower or other thickeners because for me it changes the taste of the soup. I normally add the zucchini with the green peel, but in this case it would change the colour of the soup too much to some brownish colour, so I peeled the zucchini first.
It’s important to cut the fennel bulb into small pieces and cut across the long part. Since fennel can be quite stringy, you might still be left with some strings in the soup after mixing if it hasn’t been cut small enough. That is just my experience to get a more silky soup.
Do not use too much onion, otherwise the onion will overpower the delicate taste of the fennel. When frying the onion, zucchini and the fennel, make sure they don’t brown but are just translucent, otherwise the soup will end up with a brown colour instead of a nice whitish one.
Add cream after mixing the soup to get it more creamy, silky and white coloured. I have used full cream, but you can also use milk or light cream for a less heavy soup.
Fennel soup with zucchini and star anise
- 1 fennel bulb diced
- ½ onion diced
- ½ zucchini diced and peeled
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 500 ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
- 75 ml (1/3 cup) cream
- 1 star anise
- 1 bay leave
- 1 tsp ground white pepper
- Take a sharp knife and trim off the green fennel stalks and the bottom part of the bulb. Keep the green stalks for later. Then cut the fennel bulb lengthwise into quarters. Now, cut each quarter crosswise into small pieces.
- Put a pan on medium heat, add the diced onion, peeled and diced zucchini and the fennel and cook in olive oil for 5 minutes until translucent.
- Add the vegetable stock, bay leave, star anise and cover with a lid. Let it cook for 25 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
- Remove from the heat, take out the bay leaf and star anise. Mix the soup with a hand blender or counter top food processor to a very smooth puree. Add the cream and season with pepper and extra salt and blend again.
- Serve in a bowl and decorate with the green fennel fronds.
- Only use the white part of the fennel and peel the zucchini in order to get a white coloured soup. Adding the cream will enhance the white colour of the soup even more.
- Use the green fennel fronds as decoration, but also for a slightly stronger aniseed flavour.
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