Beat the January blues with this warming potato dish.


  • 1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large leeks (white parts only, halved lengthwise)
  • 1 tsp ground fennel seed
  • sea salt and coarse black pepper
  • 2 large fennel bulbs (quartered lengthwise)
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 tblsp fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, marjoram)
  • 1 cup fresh cream
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 0.5 tsp peppercorns
  • 0.5 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 3 sprigs of parsley
  • 2 oz mature white cheddar (grated)
  • 2 oz parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1 ½ pounds waxy potatoes
  • 12 pitted black olives (coarsely chopped)


  • Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the leeks, ground fennel, pinch of salt, and a little pepper. Sauté over a medium heat until the leeks are softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Thinly slice the fennel bulbs and add it to the pan, along with the garlic and a pinch of salt. Sauté for 5 minutes until the fennel is tender.
  • Set aside in a bowl and toss with ½ the parsley, thyme, and marjoram.
  • While the leeks are sautéing, pour the cream and milk into a small pot; add the bay leaf, pepper corns, whole fennel seeds, and sprigs of herbs.
  • Simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes.
  • Pour through a strainer and season with a little salt.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a 9x13 inch baking dish.
  • Mix the cheeses together.
  • Thinly slice the potatoes and layer 1/3 of them in the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping the slices.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Sprinkle with the olives, half the leeks and fennel and 1/3 of the cheese.
  • Layer half of the remaining sliced potatoes on top. Season with salt and pepper. Place the rest of the leeks and fennel on top, and ½ of the remaining cheese. Top with a final layer of potatoes and pour the hot cream over.
  • Cover the dish and bake for 40 minutes.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake, uncovered, until the potatoes are very tender and the gratin turns golden and a little crisp, approx 15 minutes.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining chopped herbs just before serving.

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