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.
No compromises here – it’s authentic or nothing. Middle Eastern brands are not widely available outside big cities in the UK but they’re worth seeking out and stockpiling if necessary. The supermarket versions lack potency while being horribly over-priced. Frankly, they’re so insipid they make me angry. A sniff of the good stuff meanwhile will make English winters just about bearable.
There are many traditional recipes for using rose water and orange blossom water in cookbooks and online, but once you’ve got the ingredients right do stray from the orthodox paths and see what you find. I added a few teaspoons of orange blossom water to a baked cheesecake recipe (from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook) and the result was divine. The rich, smooth texture of the cheesecake was given a delicate floral lift, adding flavour without over-complicating the classic dessert.
Both orange blossom and rose water work well in the traditional English sponge cake and to flavour the icing. I like these combinations:
Lavender cake with orange blossom icing (blitz fresh lavender flowers with the sugar to flavour the sponge cake, then mix orange blossom water with icing sugar and a little water)
Geranium cake with rose water icing (lay some geranium leaves at the bottom of the cake tin to perfume the sponge, make icing as above)
Morning sunshine drink
- Juice of a pink grapefruit
- Juice of an orange
- Juice of ½ lime
- Generous splash of orange blossom water
- Cut a grapefruit in half, use a knife to score around the segments for easier eating later
- Sprinkle with rose or orange blossom water
- Add a little agave syrup or brown sugar if you like it sweet
- Grill until bubbling
- A scoop of vanilla Swedish Glace vegan ice cream
- A scattering of pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios
- A sprinkling of orange blossom water
Looks messy but colourful, tastes divine.
Posted in: Beverages, Fruits and berries, Recipes | Tagged: Beverages, cake, cheesecake, drinks, grapefruit, ice cream, orange, orange blossom, pistachio, pomegranate, rose, rose water, vegan
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.