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Crispy fennel wedges with sour cream & sweet chilli sauce from In Praise of Veg

Servings: 4 as a side dish
If you grew up in the 1980s and 1990s like yours truly, you’ll have had your fair share of wedges with sour cream and sweet chilli. At the time, this combination – the crunch of the wedges, the gentle heat and aggressive syrupiness of the sweet chilli, teamed with the coolness of sour cream against your lips – was about as close as a teen could get to ‘gourmet’. Here’s my grown-up version, where fennel takes the place of potato wedges, adding a bonus bout of herbaceousness, and lightening up the whole proposition to a point where you might just find yourself wowed by wedges once more.


  • 2 fennel bulbs fronds reserved
  • 1 garlic clove bruised
  • 1 tbsp reduced vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ tbsp salt flakes
  • 2 cups (100 g) panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup (150 g) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 tso ground white pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • rice bran or sunflower oil for deep-frying
  • 4 tbsp Sambal oelek page 220, or use store-bought
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup or runny honey
  • sour cream to serve


  • Cut the fennel bulbs in half lengthways, then cut into 2 cm (¾ inch) thick wedges, following the length of the fennel. Place in a large heatproof bowl with the garlic clove, vinegar and 1 tablespoon of the salt flakes. Cover with boiling water from a kettle. Stand for 10 minutes for the fennel to soften slightly.
  • Meanwhile, reserve some fennel fronds for garnishing, then finely chop the rest; you’ll want at least 1 tablespoon’s worth. Toss into a shallow bowl with the panko crumbs and remaining salt flakes. In a separate shallow bowl, combine the flour and pepper. Crack the eggs into a third bowl and lightly beat with a fork.
  • Heat 7 cm (2 ¾ inches) of your chosen deep-frying oil in a wide saucepan to 180°C (350°C); a panko crumb will turn golden in 10 seconds when the oil is hot enough. Line a baking tray with paper towel, and set a cooling rack over the top.
  • Drain the softened fennel. Working with one piece at a time, coat it in the flour, then the egg, then dip in the breadcrumb mixture to coat completely. Transfer to the hot oil and cook, in batches, for 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to the cooling rack to drain as you cook the rest; season with extra salt while it is still hot.
  • For a quick and easy sweet chilli sauce, mix together the sambal and golden syrup until well combined.
  • Scatter the fennel wedges with the reserved fennel fronds. Serve hot, with sour cream and your DIY sweet chilli sauce for dipping.


Small or baby fennel bulbs will work particularly well for this recipe. Cut them into quarters for finger- food pieces – or even halves if they’re extra-small.
The fennel wedges can be blanched in advance and deep-fried just before it’s time to serve – but only batter and crumb them just before deep-frying, so they don’t go soggy.
Go gluten-free
Rice crumbs or quinoa flakes will fry up nicely under a gluten-free flour.
For vegans
Avocado mashed with lemon juice would go down well as a dip alternative. Use the liquid left behind in a tin of beans or chickpeas (the ‘aquafaba’) as a substitute for the eggs in the crumbing stage.

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