Browsing through the farmers’ market last month I spotted a box of fennel bulbs, two for £1.50. The last time I bought fennel it was for a particular recipe, and I paid quite a hefty price in the supermarket. That recipe (a delicious salad of fennel, watercress and pear with a lime dressing from Nigel Slater’s beautifully written ‘Kitchen Diaries’) was too wintery for a sunny May afternoon, but I had oranges and sunflower seeds at home. Instant inspiration. The delicate aniseed crunch of the fennel combines beautifully with citrus.
Today the market made its monthly appearance and I quickly hunted out the fennel, managing by great strength of will (and an empty wallet) to avoid the temptation of cakes, handmade chocolates and posh cheeses.
As it happens it’s grey as Mordor out there today, so I came home and had pasta. The second the sun comes out though, that fennel is for the chop!
A Summery Fennel Salad
Wash and very finely slice two bulbs of fennel
Toast and lightly crush a generous handful of hazelnuts, or use sunflower seeds or a combination.
To make the dressing, whisk the juice of two freshly squeezed oranges with olive oil, Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper. Adjust to your taste.
Spread out the sliced fennel in a dish, pour over the oil, add the nuts/seeds and gently combine.
Wensleydale cheese goes really well with this salad, perhaps with some fresh multi-seed bread.
I discovered pomegranate molasses by accident. I had treated myself to a rare jaunt up to London for a tour of the Wallace Collection and lunch at the Lebanese cafe Comptoir Libanais where I had my first taste of Baba Ghanoush. On their deli shelves were Middle Eastern brands of orange blossom water, rose water and pomegranate molasses. They clinked merrily in my bag on the way home and soon got used up.
I’m not ashamed to be addicted. I confess to feeling a flutter of panic when the bottles are down to their last quarter. Recently I had a go at making my own pomegranate molasses, following an online recipe of pure pomegranate juice with a little sugar and lemon juice. The sugar made it too jammy for my taste. Thanks to a friend I’ve got a couple of bought bottles to tide me over and afterwards I’ll try simmering down just the juice to see if that gives a more authentic flavour.
As for why it’s become so necessary, I’ve found that pomegranate molasses adds a pleasing, rounded sharpness to salad dressings, less abrasive than balsamic vinegar. It’s traditionally used to jazz up Baba Ghanoush and as a marinade for meat and is great with veggie sausages and tofu.
Baba Ghanoush – recipes vary, this is my favourite so far
- 2 aubergines, blackened under the grill or over flames (takes a while) – flesh removed and excess liquid squeezed out.
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1-2 tablespoons tahini
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
- olive oil
- salt to taste
- ground cumin
- pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios or chopped fresh mint to decorate
Blitz in a blender or mash together with a fork, taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with pitta bread.
Pomegranate molasses dressing for quinoa & vegetable summer salad.
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 stick lemongrass, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- juice and zest of a lime
- salt and pepper
- a little honey or agave syrup if sweetness is needed
Whisk together, taste and make any adjustments.
Cook quinoa and while still warm, mix in ½ of the dressing. Chop fresh beetroot, carrot, courgette, curly kale, spinach or watercress, peas, fresh herbs, and add to the warm quinoa. Roasted squash (especially with cumin & cinnamon) is a nice addition. Sprinkle over some seeds – pumpkin and sunflower work well. Pour over the rest of the dressing, stir and serve.