Crisp and refreshing salad made with thinly sliced raw fennel, sweet and sour orange segments, and nutty toasted almonds. Perfect with fish and chicken.
Fennel is a white, bulb-shaped root vegetable. It has a crunchy texture, similar to celery, but becomes tender and sweet when roasted and caramelised. It has a unique flavour of anise and liquorice, and is used a lot in Italian cooking. The tough outer layer, hard core and stalks are removed before eating, although the leafy fronds attached to the top of the stalks are generally saved for a garnish. The leaves have a similar appearance to dill, and a more subtle flavour than the bulb. Fennel is a versatile vegetable, which can be roasted in wedges, chopped and braised in stews or sliced thinly and eaten raw. This recipe uses raw fennel for a crunchy and refreshing salad that works well as a palate cleanser. It is best served with fish or chicken, but also goes well with spicy Middle Eastern dishes like Lamb Kofta Skewers. Following this theme, you can also add the seeds of half a pomegranate. For a nice colour contrast, you could replace or supplement the salad leaves with crimson radicchio (although you may need to add a bit more honey to counteract the bitterness).
Tips & Tricks
- Toast the almonds – this intensifies the flavour as the natural oils are released and brown the flesh
- Keep shaking the dressing until it thickens – the mustard and honey will emulsify the oil and vinegar, creating a thick coating that clings to the salad rather than running off and pooling at the bottom of the plate
- Add dressing just before serving – this stops the salad leaves from getting limp and soggy
- Toss with your hands – this is the most effective way to evenly coat the leaves in dressing
for the salad:
- 2 oranges (340g)
- 1 large fennel bulb
- 40g whole almonds, blanched (soak in just-boiled water for 5 minutes, then pinch off the loosened skins)
- 1 handful of rocket or mixed salad leaves
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
for the dressing:
- 1 tablespoon orange juice (from the oranges)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey (replace with pomegranate molasses for a vegan option)
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- Cut off the top and bottom of the orange, deep enough to leave a round of flesh at either end. Stand upright. Cut away the skin and pith, cutting downwards and following the contours of the orange. Hold over a bowl to catch the juice while you cut between the membranes to release the segments. Transfer the orange segments to a sieve, and leave to drain over the bowl.
- Trim off the root from the bottom of the fennel bulb, then remove the tough outer layer. Stand upright and slice in half lengthways. Cut out the hard core from both halves, which is located just above the root. Grip the fennel around the stalks and grate at a 45° angle on a mandolin grater (if you do not have a mandolin, use a food processor or slice as thinly as you can using a large knife). Save the outer layer and stalks for stock, and the feathery fronds for a salad garnish.
- Heat a dry frying pan over a medium heat. Add the almonds and lightly toast until fragrant and lightly brown in patches – about 5 minutes. Briefly bash the almonds until they break apart – you can use a pestle and mortar to do this, or seal in a bag and bash with a rolling pin.
- Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jam jar, and shake vigorously until fully blended and thickened (the mustard and honey will emulsify the oil and vinegar).
- Combine the salad ingredients except for the almonds in a serving bowl. Pour over the dressing just before serving. Toss until evenly coated using your hands, then scatter over the almonds.