A the beginning of winter this year I planted fennel in my vegetable garden for the first time. It’s been an astounding success and I am harvesting beautiful bulbs every few days. The aroma of the freshly cut young fennel is astonishing – so fresh and sharply aniseed, but also almost sweet in overtone. I love fennel slowly roasted, or gently braised with some butter, but it is also delicious raw in salads, crunchy as celery, but not stringy or fibrous, and with a complexity of flavour that complements sweet ingredients such as oranges, or apple.
Today I paired two finely shaved bulbs with some blood oranges and made a dressing with apple cider vinegar, honey and good olive oil. Garnished with a few of the delicate fennel fronds there could scarcely be a simpler salad. It was wonderful on its own with just some chewy bread to accompany, but it would also pair well with rich roasted pork belly or perfectly pan-fried duck breast.
Serves 2 – 4
2 young fennel bulbs, trimmed
3 blood oranges
fennel fronds for garnish
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
Finely slice the fennel and place in a serving bowl. Carefully cut away the rind and pith of the blood oranges and slice horizontally. Place the oranges on top of the fennel and garnish with the fennel fronds. In a small jar with a screw top lid, place the vinegar, olive oil and honey and shake well to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When ready to serve pour the dressing over the fennel and oranges and toss very carefully, or pass separately in a small serving jug.