Fennel seeds are produced by both the feathery annual herb and the bulbous perennial Florence fennel, which is eaten as a vegetable. The flowers produce a mass of seeds, which are quite sweet, and the flavour is similar to aniseed or liquorice. They are used in fish soups and stews and on top of grilled fish or meat. In some Mediterranean countries, the seeds are sprinkled on top of bread dough prior to baking. However, they can be included in other baked products. Add some to soda bread or make a seeded rye bread using a mixture of fennel seeds, cumin seeds and caraway seeds. Swedish Limpa bread, which usually uses aniseed, can be made by adding fennel seeds, honey, orange zest and juice to a light rye bread mixture. A few can be added to a traditional recipe for banana bread or carrot cake and you can make coconut macaroons a little different by adding a few fennel seeds to the mixture.
Why not make savoury cheese cornbreads or corn muffins and flavour with some gently toasted fennel seeds? Or if making a vegetarian tart using, for example, roasted peppers and fennel with mozzarella cheese or Feta cheese, sprinkle with some seeds to accentuate the flavour of the fennel.
Fiona Burrell, co-author of Leiths Baking Bible, from Leiths School of Food and Wine