First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

What’s cooking today: Fennel bulb & smoked salmon tag...



What’s cooking today: Fennel bulb & smoked salmon tagliatelle

Tony Jackman’s smoked salmon and fennel bulb pasta, served in a large pasta bowl by Mervyn Gers Ceramics. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Not all pasta sauces have to be made with olive oil. Some are better with butter. Like this one…

The anise flavour of a fennel bulb is subtle; just a hint of licorice, as it were, to tantalise the palate. Paired with a small amount of smoked salmon in a pasta sauce, it makes for a pleasant light supper. I like the role played by the sourness of a high quality crème fraiche in this sauce, which needs gentle cooking until it thickens simply by careful reduction.

There’s wine too, in moderation so that it does not mask the fennel, and go easy on the smoked salmon; it’s an ingredient, not the hero of the dish. Too much and it will dominate the fennel.

I used egg tagliatelle for this, but other pasta types such as linguine would be good, or pasta shells.

The fennel is first poached in white wine and vegetable stock. But it all begins with butter…

(Serves 2)


3 Tbsp butter

4 durum wheat egg tagliatelle nests

100 g to 150 g smoked salmon, in thin strips

250 g Dalewood jersey crème fraiche or similar

1 fennel bulb

2 Tbsp chopped fennel fronds and more for garnish

1 small red onion, very thinly sliced

1 bruised garlic clove

¼ cup dry white wine

Vegetable stock to cover the fennel

Black pepper to taste

2 pinches of celery salt, and more to taste


Cut away the fennel bulb core. Poach the fennel bulb sections (they peel off like leaves) in white wine and vegetable stock with 1 bruised garlic clove, 2 pinches of celery salt and 2 Tbsp butter. Season with black pepper to taste, about 7 grindings.

Sauté the sliced red onion in the butter until soft but not attaining colour. 

Tip the poached fennel and the poaching stock into the pasta sauce. Simmer gently until reduced by two thirds. Add the crème fraiche and stir so that the cream melds perfectly with the sauce. Add the smoked salmon and stir so that all the pieces are coated. Reduce very gently until thickened, adding chopped fennel fronds along the way. Season and adjust with celery salt and black pepper.

Meanwhile, cook and drain the tagliatelle.

Toss the tagliatelle through the pasta sauce and serve with chopped fennel fronds as garnish. DM/TGIFood

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Champion 2021. His book, foodSTUFF, is available in the DM Shop. Buy it here

Mervyn Gers Ceramics supplies dinnerware for the styling of some TGIFood shoots. For more information, click here.

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks. Share your versions of his recipes with him on Instagram and he’ll see them and respond.

SUBSCRIBE to TGIFood here. Also visit the TGIFood platform, a repository of all of our food writing. 


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

No Comments, yet

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted