For the Fennel:
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons Pernod
1¾ cups water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
Pinch of salt
1 bulb fennel, sliced ⅛-inch thick (core left intact)
1 tablespoon rose water
For the Crust:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
For the Cake:
2 cups whole Greek yogurt
¾ cups whole milk
1½ cups coarse semolina flour
1⅓ cups sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons fennel pollen
Pinch of salt
1½ cups unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1. Prepare the fennel: In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice, Pernod, water, sugar, fennel seeds and salt and bring to a simmer. Cook until the fennel seeds become tender, about 15 minutes. Strain the syrup into a medium bowl. Discard the fennel seeds.
2. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large saucepan, add the reserved syrup and bring to a simmer. Add the fennel, and cook, covered, until tender, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fennel to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, arrange in a single layer and let cool. Transfer the syrup to a medium bowl and add the rose water. Measure 1 cup of the syrup and reserve any remaining for another use.
3. Make the crust: In a 8x11 baking dish, drizzle the melted butter and sprinkle the light brown sugar evenly to cover the bottom of the pan. Arrange the fennel slices on top in a single layer, then set aside.
4. Make the semolina cake: Combine the wet ingredients (yogurt and milk) in a bowl. Combine the dry ingredients (semolina, sugar, baking powder, fennel pollen and salt) in a large mixing bowl. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and then add the butter. Immediately, pour the batter into the baking dish. Bake until golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes.
5. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Cover the baking dish with a large cutting board and carefully invert the cake onto it. Using a wood skewer, poke holes all over the cake. Slowly pour the reserved syrup all over the cake, letting it soak in, and let sit for 30 minutes. Serve slices of the cake.