I’m not going to lie, I’m not a huge fan of eating fennel myself. I don’t like that aniseed flavour in anything, especially not in Turkish Raki or Greek Ouzo that I was recently introduced to through my travels. Perhaps it has something to do with a whole bottle of Sambuca I drank on the results night of my GCSE’s, that didn’t end well even slightly. Anyway, I’ve never enjoyed licorice or anything containing star anise – you get my point?
I do, however, love it as an ingredient for its versatility, flavour profile and unique look. I’ve used it in a purée to accompany grilled sea bass, I’ve served it roasted with a cut of meat and I love the fronds as a pretty garnish.
I’m currently in Italy where fresh Fennel is readily available so I added some to my basket whilst at the fresh market the other day, shortly after a trip to the fish market where I’d bought a 2.5kg whole bream to bake for the guests dinner that night.
I mean, we all know that Citrus flavours go nicely with fish, but the sharpness also pairs nicely with the strong flavour of Fennel.
I paired that together and came up with the following shaved Fennel salad. I had some fennel bulbs left over so just recreated a similar dish today for lunch as part of a Meat-Free Monday banquet (trying to get some vegetables into the boys!)
For this summery, fresh salad or side dish you will need:
Serves 4 as a side.
- 3 Fennel Bulbs, fronds picked off and set aside
- 1/2 Cup Green Beans
- 1/2 Cup Mangetout
- 1 Spring Onion
- 1/2 English Cucumber
- 1 Orange
- 1 Pink Grapefruit
- 1 Lemon
- 1 Handful Fresh Parsley (flat leaf is best but curly will work too)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tsp Wholegrain Dijon Mustard
Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, shave the Fennel thinly. Place into a large bowl.
Slice the mangetout and green beans in half lengthways to open up the peas. Add into the bowl with the Fennel.
Slice the cucumber lengthways to approximately the same length as the mangetout for uniformity and julienne, discarding the center seedy part (this adds unnecessary mush to the salad). Add to the Fennel.
In a separate bowl, segment the orange and grapefruit making sure to remove all of the pith. You will be left with just the center of the fruit, squeeze this into another bowl.
Add the juice of the lemon to the citrus juice mix and stir. Add about the same amount of olive oil, the mustard and stir vigorously. Season with salt and pepper and pour this over the Fennel and bean mix, stirring to combine.
Slice the Spring Onion and add this to the salad, mixing before adding the segmented citrus and parsley trying not to break up the orange and grapefruit pieces too much.
Finally, scatter the fennel fronds on top and enjoy immediately or store in the fridge for a day or two.
I like to leave the juices to soak up for about half an hour before serving, but eating immediately is also just fine!
You could also add a dollop of Greek yoghurt or coconut yoghurt to make this even fresher if you’re eating it as a main meal, or pair with some grilled shrimp or chilled roast chicken.
However you try it, it’s best with a side of sunshine (or dreams of sunshine!).