Fennel, a cousin to last weeks' carrot, is a delicious perennial plant in all her forms. Every part of the fennel plant is edible; the large pale bulb, the stem, the delicate green fronds, the seeds- even the pollen! Each has a unique taste and use, though today we will focus primarily on the bulb, with a little frond tossed in for good measure.
With its mild aniseed flavour and refreshing light crunch, I love to thinly shave fennel bulb into salads. Paired with lemon and olive oil massaged kale, then tossed with sweet apple slices, toasted walnuts, and a hint of honey, this salad in particular is a winner.
A huge bonus is that all the delicious ingredients can be locally sourced from our Canterbury region. While I am grateful for the access to luxurious spices, rice, and beans sourced from around the globe, I try to focus as many meals as possible from regional producers. Knowing where and from whom my food comes, supporting local growers and makers, cutting down on food miles- these are just a few of the reasons we should all aim to vote locally with our dollars. And then there's the simple truth of flavour, the terroir, that poem of origin, soil, and microclimate which sing on our taste buds and tie us to the South Island springtime in this tasty salad.
1 large Fennel Bulb
2 Apples (I used NZ Queen, and I recommend a sweeter rather than tart apple here)
1 large bunch Kale (feel free to use half mesclun mix/baby kale/et cetera)
1/4 Cup Dried Currants
1/4 Cup Toasted Walnuts (or sunflower seeds, pepitas, hazelnuts...)
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 Meyer Lemon, zest and juice
1 Tablespoon Honey
Touch of salt and freshly cracked black pepper
The How To:
Remove the tough ribs of the kale and tear the leaves into smaller, mouth sized pieces. Toss into a large bowl and drizzle half the oil and half the lemon juice, then roll up your sleeves and massage that kale for a few moments, until the colour deepens and the leaves soften. It will break down the tough fibers, making it tastier and easier to digest.
Take your fennel and trim off the sturdy stems (keep 'em!), then cut the bulb in half, then half again until you have four quarters. Thinly slice the fennel crosswise; if you happen to have a mandolin for slicing impossibly thin pieces, go for it, but carefully applied knife skills will work, too.
Likewise with the apple, cut into slim slices, then add to the bowl of massaged kale. Gently mix with the remaining oil, lemon and honey, coating the apple and fennel, which will keep them from turning brown as they oxidise.
Top with currants and toasted walnuts, a few feathery fennel fronds (bonus tongue twister!), and a pinch of salt and pepper.
*Makes 2 large salads, or 4 side salads
*Goats cheese, pecorino or tofu 'feta' are all really yummy additions
*Use the stems in soups/baked/sauteed
Created by Elena Keir of Naked Cakes & Wholefoods