most wanted

braised fennel with olives & soft polenta

I have a theory that there are two types of possessions. The first group are those things that you only need one of or as many as it takes to do the job. The second group, while they may still be functional, are things that you can never own too many….things that capture your imagination things that you just can live without.  I love how this varies from person to person for some it’s cars, others have their pot plants, I even have a friend with a barbed wire collection…but for me it has always been those two indespensable items: shoes and cookbooks.

While I have been relatively successful at keeping my footwear addiction out of the Imelda stratosphere, my cookbook collection appears to be well fed and thriving. Yet just when I make the brave promise to myself to pay off my car before acquiring any new treasures, one of my favourite Sydney chefs goes and puts out a book.

Sean’s Panorama is the type of restaurant that I’d open if I were ever to dabble in the dark arts.  Located on the north end of Bondi beach in a tiny, unassuming space, Sean Moran has been turning out amazing meals for over ten years. Vaguely Italian in feel, it’s the type of food that I love to cook and to have cooked for me….simple and focused on letting the very best produce speak for itself.  Sean’s in the type of place where everything sounds so good it’s almost impossible to choose.

When I read about Sean’s new book in the latest Vogue Entertaining and Travel magazine, I knew that my cookbook wish list had just expanded to include a new family member. Fortunately the VE+T people were kind enough to publish a sample recipe just to whet my appetite: braised fennel with olives and polenta. The result was a gorgeously rich wintery dish that would satisfy even the most hardened carnivore. Meltingly tender caramelised fennel slices in a rich tomato scented sauce on a bed of oozy polenta…all good things…

my current cookbook wish list
*sean moran: let it simmer
*karen martini: where the heart is
*greg & lucy malouf: saha – a chef’s journey through lebanon & syria
*chez panisse: menus
*chez panisse: vegetables
*damien pignolet: french
*diana henry: crazy water, pickled lemons
*tessa kiros: falling cloudberries
*nigella lawson: how to be a domestic goddess

braised fennel with olives & soft polenta
serves 4

Adapted from Sean Moran’s new book let it simmer. Sean serves his fennel with crispy fried polenta but I prefer my polenta warm, oozy & soft. Sean uses fresh corn kernels in his polenta which I would have done as well if I had some at hand.

This is a perfect wintery main course when you need to keep vegos like my good friend Fel and meat eaters happy and could even vegan-ised by substituting vegetable stock for the chicken stock and making the polenta with veg stock and olive oil.

1t fennel seeds
2 large fennel bulbs
1/2C extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2C chicken stock (or vegetable)
3T tomato paste
4T white wine vinegar
2T lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 red chillis, optional
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
2 handfuls your favourite olives (sean and I like little ligurian ones)
for the polenta:
2/3C instant polenta
2C chicken or veg stock
2C milk
2T butter

Trim fennel of leafy fronds and reserve. Slice fennel lengthwise into 1cm thick slices. Heat oil in a large heat proof casserole dish and cook fennel in batches over medium high heat until well browned and caramelised on each side.

Return all the fennel to the pan and add stock, garlic, tomato paste, vinegar, lemon juice, chilli, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cover with a damp scrunched piece of baking paper. Bake at 180C for 30mins or until fennel is well cooked and soft.

Meanwhile for the polenta bring stock and milk to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add polenta in a steady stream whisking vigorously. Simmer over low heat stirring constantly until thickened, approx 5mins, Season and stir through butter.

Divide polenta between 4 plates and top with fennel slices. Drizzle with cooking juices, sprinkle with fennel fronds and top with olives.


braised fennel with olives & soft polenta

Sean’s Panorama
270 Campbell Parade
Bondi Beach
+61 2 9365 4924


  • Someone after my own heart when it comes to cookbooks. My husband and I have a positively insane cookbook collection. I’m still moving my zillion old cookbook reviews over to my new content management system (a movable type blog), and it’s taking forever–I’d forgotten just how many of them there were!

    That recipe above looks wonderful.

  • how funny, I just wrote about my growing shoe obsession as well. I agree there are just some things you cannot have too much of, mine were shoes and cookies.
    All this time, I don’t ever remember passing by Sean’s. Perhaps I haven’t just been looking closely enough. I will definitely have a better look next time.

  • hi jules, thank you for visiting my site – your photos are absolutely beautiful and appetising, look forward to reading more of your gorgeous posts!

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