Autumn brings such delightfulness in the month or two before winter sets in. Fennel comes into its own, and Nashi pears arrive. Tomatoes are delightful in the less intense heat. Fronds of mint wave in the breeze, as does lemon verbena and other herbs. I do love autumn.
This is a delightful salad that can be part of a meal, or form lunch on its own with a piece of Lebanese flatbread or pita bread.
Are you after other Fennel Salads? Try Fennel, Potato and Tomato Salad with Garlicky Mayo, Fennel and Apple Salad and Grilled Fennel with Mozzarella. Also try Fennel a la Grecque.
Now, first to Panch Phoron. This is a classic Bengali spice mix, and it can also be called many names – panch phoron, pancha phoran, panch phora, panch puran, panchpuran, punch puram, punchpuram.
Panch means five, and Phoron means spice. It typically consists of five spices in equal measure: Fenukreek (methi), Nigella Seed (kalonji), Mustard Seed (rai), Fennel Seed (saunf), and Cumin Seed (Jeera). Recipes do vary, and it is also good to make your own as commercial spice mixes always favour the cheaper spices and use less of the more expensive spices.
It is commonly used in Bengali dishes, but what is not generally known is that when it is toasted, it is a great topping for a salad.
Nashi Pear and Fennel Salad with Mustard Dressing and Panch Phoron Crunch
Take a fennel bulb and slice with a mandolin into thin slices. Chop 1 or 2 celery stalks into thin slices or dice. Take 2 nachi pears and, without peeling, slice thinly. Carefully mix them together.
Make a mustardy vinaigrette with Dijon Mustrard, white wine vinegar and olive oil. Dress the salad.
Take a Tblspn or bit less of panch phoron and toast it in a dry pan until the aroma arises and the seeds darken a little. Take care not to burn it.
Sprinkle the toasted panch phoron over the salad and serve.