This is an unusual take on a classic — the fennel turns soft and sweet and deliciously caramelised during cooking.
2 fennel bulbs
3 eating apples
120g caster sugar
1 tsp fennel seeds
Flour, for dusting
250g ready-made, ready-rolled all-butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp granulated sugar
Vanilla ice cream, to serve
Trim each fennel bulb at the top and slice a thin layer off the bottom. Cut lengthways into 8 wedges so they remain attached at the root.
Boil a large pan of water and blanch the fennel for 1 minute, then drain.
Peel and core the apples and cut each into 8 wedges.
Meanwhile, heat up the butter and sugar together in a large frying pan until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
Add the fennel seeds, blanched fennel and apple. If they are not starting to colour after 10 minutes, drain off the caramel sauce and reserve, then return them to the pan and fry on all sides till golden.
Preheat the oven to 220°C.
Lay out the pastry on a floured surface and cut it into a 26cm circle.
Add the caramel to a 20cm oven-proof frying pan and carefully pack the apple and fennel as tightly as possible into the pan.
Warm on the hob until starting to bubble, then switch off the heat.
Lay over the pastry circle, and turn the edges back so that they come back up the sides of the pan.
Brush with the beaten egg and scatter with the granulated sugar. Prick the top a couple of times with a fork, and transfer to the oven for 35–40 minutes.
After 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 200°C.
When golden on top, remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
Place an inverted plate over the top of the pan, and with one movement, turn both over together, so that the tart comes out the right side up on the plate.
Scrape over any remaining caramel sauce, and serve warm with a helping of vanilla ice cream.