I’M not cooking another thing! Well, not till next year. It’s been a lovely Christmas, lots of fun and lots of food…you can imagine. In our family we all cook…my brothers, sisters, nieces and nephew, all specialising in variations of our own family recipes and traditions.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Our married partners, the in-laws (collectively referred to as the outlaws) who have brought a different set of dishes to the table. As well as Italian, we now eat Mexican, Dutch, Chinese, even Scottish.

Today, we’re all partying at my brother, John Mark’s house, so I’m off duty. Wishing you all a peaceful and happy new year …and don’t worry about your waist line…we’ll all be on a health routine come January.

Gratin of fennel

We all have bits and bobs of cheese left over after the festivities. A gratin …fancy name for a cheesy roast…is a tasty way to make a meal out of leftovers…or LOs, as I call them.


4 large fennel bulbs

400ml chicken stock

150ml double cream


2 tablespoons og fresh breadcrumbs

Sea salt and black pepper.

Nutmeg to grate


Pre-heat oven 200C/Gas 6

Trim the fennel, discarding any fibrous outer leaves.

Cut into eighths, lengthwise.

Remove the tough core at the bottom

Warm the stock, add the fennel and simmer until the fennel is softened and a skewer through the thickest part goes through easily. Don’t overcook it. The fennel will absorb most of the stock and the flavour.

Grease an ovenproof dish large enough to hold the fennel in one layer.

Place the fennel in it and add 3-4 tablespoons of grated cheese.

You can use any cheese you have, stilton, cheddar or parmesan.

Season well and toss everything together .

Cover with the cream and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top.

Add a final scattering of grated cheese and a good grating of nutmeg.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until the dish is crispy and melted.

Roasted fennel

If you want to make a lighter fennel dish that is good as a vegan choice but can be enjoyed by everyone, there is nothing nicer than simple roasted fennel.

Pre-heat oven 200C/Gas 6

Prepare 2-3 bulbs fennel as above but cut into thinner slices, about 2-3 cm thick, keeping the fennel fronds aside.

Lay on a shallow baking tray and drizzle with 4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.

Season well and roast for 20-25 minutes. Dress with the fresh fronds and finely chopped flat leaf parsley.