Around 6 months ago I was lying on a villa day bed deep in the rice fields of Ubud, and had the most extraordinary light bulb moment: I’m going to start a book club when I get home. But not just any book club: A COOKBOOK club!
I love how being removed from the everyday routine sparks a creative whirlwind in my mind, but I’m normally not the greatest executor of my grandiose ideas. However this particular one was most certainly achievable. Anyway; I blabbed to some friends who owned a café, and their keenness to have it hosted on their premises held me accountable to making it happen.
Fast forward a few months and I’m so glad I made this thought a reality. It’s evolved from the idea of a cookbook club into what I decided to name The Cookbook Collective. Cooks from around my area meet on the second Wednesday of every month and each bring a dish based around a chosen theme. We have explored themes from ‘an ingredient you haven’t used before’ and ‘middle eastern’ to ‘peasant food’. We eat wayyy to much food, enjoy a wine, exchange cook books and chat all night about our culinary adventures. What’s not to love?
The first night we met was a ‘meet and greet’ night; so everyone just brought whatever they felt like cooking. One of the girls brought this recipe along and it was the most remarkable dip I have ever eaten. Even better than that moreish spinach and packaged-French-onion-soup dip in the middle of a cob roll (that one you demolish at all the backyard BBQ’s in summer). Seriously. This dip is even better.
Roasting fennel transforms chunks of watery blandness into the silkiest, caramelized veg that’s full of flavour. Combine it with roasted garlic and parmesan cheese and you’ve got a well-rounded flavour bomb. We served ours here with spelt sourdough torn into chunks, covered in olive oil and roasted until golden and crunchy, but they also go spectacularly well with My New Roots ‘Life Changing Crackers’.
2 large fennel bulb (reserve the fronds)
4 cloves garlic, in skins
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. rosemary leaves
2 cups cooked Cannellini beans, well drained
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus more for garnish
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Roughly dice the fennel. Spread onto baking tray and toss the fennel and garlic cloves in the olive oil with salt and pepper. Roast for 30-40 minutes, tossing a few times. Add the rosemary when the fennel is almost finished.
In a food processor, combine the white beans, olive oil, lemon juice, roasted fennel, garlic (pushing it out of its skin first) and parmesan. Pulse everything together into a rough puree.
Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Turn the oven up to 225C. Transfer the dip to a baking dish and sprinkle the top generously with grated parmesan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cheese has browned.
Garnish with diced fennel fronds. Serve warm with toasted flatbread or crackers.
Recipe courtesy of Transition Farm