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Fennel and Lentil au Gratin

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

1 onion, peeled and chopped
1½ oz (40gm) butter
6 oz (175gm) split red lentils
¾ pint (400ml) water or unsalted stock
1 bay leaf
Juice of ½ lemon
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb (450gm) fennel

For the topping:
dried crumbs
grated cheese

Fry the onion in 1 oz (25gm) of the butter in a medium sized pan for 5 minutes, then add the washed lentils and the water or stock and bay leaf and simmer them gently for 20-30 minutes, until the lentils are soft and golden-beige.

Then remove the bay leaf and liquidise the lentil mixture, adding the lemon juice and sea salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Wash and trim the fennel, reserving some of the leafy green pieces. Cut the white part into chunky pieces and cook in a little boiling salted water until just tender. Drain well.

Use the remaining butter to grease generously a shallow ovenproof casserole dish. Put the cooked fennel in the base of the dish. Pour the lentil mixture evenly over the top.

Chop up about a tablespoonful of the reserved fennel leaves and scatter them over the fennel mixture, then sprinkle with dried crumbs and grated cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, until crunchy and golden on top and hot and bubbling underneath.

[From 'The Bean Book' - Rose Elliot]

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