Fennel is a capricious vegetable, pretending to be summery with that fresh, crisp taste that needs nothing more than some salt and olive oil before it lands on the table. But only sorry specimens of fennel are available through Summer, and at exorbitant prices. But as Autumn wanes and winter pikes its head around the corner, fennel appears with bulbs big and firm, and the prices plunge.
Before the cold weather hits, it is important to taste some of those minimal dishes with fennel. I promise, if you slice fennel thinly, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, your salad dish might not make it to the table. It becomes so more-ish that it can be completely polished off in the kitchen before the rest of the meal is finished.
And blessings continue in the late Autumn. All of a sudden pomegranates fill the green grocers’ shelves again. Those ruby red kernels that add sheer joy to any dish and look divine at the table. These kernels of happiness also speak of Summer, but it must be of Summer-gone, because Autumn and early winter is their real season.
Fennel and pomegranate, unsurprisingly, make a great match in the salad bowl. One crunchy and liquorishy, and the other slightly tart and juicy. Ottolenghi in his book Ottolenghi, pairs them with feta and sumac. This must bring four of Ottolenghi’s most loved ingredients together – he uses them a lot.
He recommends Greek feta for the bite that it gives, but I have fallen in love with a more Middle Eastern feta, one that I can get from the local Afghan grocery. It is creamier and gentler, and I adore it. In this recipe, use your favourite feta too.
Would you like more Fennel recipes? Try Fennel, Potato and Tomato Salad with Garlicky Mayonnaise, Grilled Fennel with Fresh Mozzarella, and Fennel a la Grecque.