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.

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