Tag Archives: fennel

Red cabbage slaw with pear and fennel yogurt dressing

Who doesn’t love a good freshly made crunchy coleslaw? What’s great is its versatility to make it your own with different combinations of contrasting flavours, textures and colours. Any variety of cabbage works well as a base – kale, cavolo nero, hispi cabbage – then ‘build’ from there.

Fennel, pear and walnut are always going to go happily hand in hand so, for me, it’s a good place to start. I like the dramatic colour of red cabbage but make sure you slice it finely so it doesn’t dominate and become tricky to eat. Nobody wants to chomp on huge chunks of raw cabbage! The contrasting sharpness of the red onion against the sweet pear is welcome but I’ve pickled it in some lemon juice first, to subdue the rawness and astringency.

The yogurt dressing flavoured with fennel seeds keeps things nice and light. Remember to reserve the fennel fronds from the tops of the bulb to add for an extra hit of aniseed. The dressing is a million miles away from the artery-clogging and heavy mayonnaise supermarket coleslaws you can find. You may not need all the dressing so use as much as you like, so as not to drown it.

The coleslaw is sufficient and delicious enough to eat solo for a lunch, or it makes a great side dish to a buttery jacket potato or anything porky, particularly slices of succulent roast gammon or ham.

Serves 2

Fennel yogurt dressing
Heaped ½ tsp fennel seeds, toasted
75ml Greek yogurt
1 tbsp extra virgin
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp water
Pinch sea salt

Half red onion, thinly sliced
Quarter lemon, juice only
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
Quarter red cabbage, shredded finely
1 large ripe conference pear, peeled, cored and sliced
Generous handful walnuts, toasted
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
Large handful of parsley, chopped

  1. Bash the fennel seeds to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar. Then add to a jam jar, along with the rest of the dressing ingredients, and shake vigorously.
  1. Slice the red onion on a mandolin or as fine as possible using a sharp knife. Put the red onion in a bowl and squeeze over the lemon with a pinch of salt. Set aside for five minutes.
  1. Slice the fennel on a mandolin and put in a serving bowl along with the red cabbage, pear, walnuts, seeds and parsley. 
  1. Add enough of the dressing to lightly coat the coleslaw, gently mix then serve.

Caramelised fennel tart with rosemary spelt pastry

Why do all the supermarkets not stock this superb vegetable? It’s so versatile: raw, roasted, braised, chargrilled, sautéed, pureed… there’s so many ways to eat it. Some people dislike the strong aniseed of fennel but they obviously haven’t tried when it’s cooked and becomes beautifully caramelised and sweet.

Fennel has a happy marriage with fish; the aniseed notes enhancing the fishy flavour, whether that’s smoked mackerel or some delicate lemon sole. They’re just right for each other, like lamb and mint or beef and horseradish. I can’t imagine a fish soup (with a generous glug of Pernod too) or fish en papilotte, without some fennel playing a secondary role.

When raw, it’s crisp and clean with a pronounced aniseed flavour and is delicious in salads. A fennel, blood orange and olive salad is a wonderful thing. It’s worth the potential loss of fingertips by using a mandolin to get ultra thin shavings. Don’t forget to save the delicate looking fronds for garnish, which look really pretty and give an extra fennel hit.

Give this wondrous bulb some heat and it is transformed into something soft, mellow and sweet; the liquorice is more rounded and toffee-like. Juicy roast chicken on a bed of onions, fennel and lemon slices; creamy fennel soup topped with a crispy skinned piece of fish, chargrilled fennel with tomatoes in a herb dressing… Where are those fennel doubters now?

In this recipe, I slowly sauté fennel till golden and soft, then bake inside a buttery rosemary spelt pastry crust with a filling of Burford Brown eggs, crème fraiche and parmesan. Hence why the tart looks so orange! The eggs have the most amazing rich yolks. Health food this is not, but once you bite into this tasty tart, any thoughts of its virtuous failings soon go out of the window. Serve the tart slightly warm (but really good at room temperature too) for a delicious lunch or a light dinner served with a crisp green salad.

90g plain flour
90g light spelt flour
90g unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
3-4 tbsp cold water

Fennel tart
2 fennel bulbs, cut into 5-6 vertical slices
Glug of rapeseed oil
3 Burford Brown or any free range eggs
150ml crème fraiche
15g grated parmesan


  1. Preheat oven to 200C and pop an oven tray in to heat.
  2. To make the pastry, put the flours, chilled butter and rosemary in a food processor and whizz until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add just enough cold water to bring the pastry together.
  3. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for 30 minutes. This allows the gluten in the flour to ‘relax’ and it will make it easier to roll out and also prevent shrinkage when you bake it.
  4. Dust a little flour on the work surface and onto your rolling pin. Roll out the pastry, while turning the dough 45 degrees as you roll, and line a 9-inch tart tin.
  5. Gently press the pastry into the edges of the tin with your fingers, prick with a fork to prevent it rising and line with baking paper and beans. Put the tart directly onto the hot tray and blind bake for 10 minutes. Remove the paper and beans then bake for another 10 minutes till lightly golden and sandy in texture. Turn the oven down to 180C or 160C fan.
  6. Meanwhile, heat the oil in two large frying pans and gently sauté the fennel with a pinch of salt for about 15 minutes on both sides till golden and cooked through.
  7. Whisk the eggs, crème fraiche and parmesan in a large jug with a generous pinch of salt and pepper till combined.
  8. Add one layer of fennel into the tart base followed by two thirds of the egg mixture. Place the rest of the fennel on top and pour the remaining egg mixture around it.
  9. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes till the filling is just set. Allow the tart to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving with the reserved fennel fronds.



Blood orange, fennel & beetroot salad



The arrival of the gruesome sounding blood orange in January is a happy moment for anyone that’s been seduced by the deep crimson flesh and distinct citrus flavour with a raspberry edge. They can be deliciously sweet such as the beautiful red-streaked Sanguinello, to the more bitter deep-red Moro variety. They are smaller than navel oranges with pitted skin and some have a dark-red rind; a hint to the alluring vivid interior. The colour is influenced by how far into the season the fruit was picked – more orange at the beginning and then more red towards the end – but when cutting into one, the element of wonder and surprise never ceases to amaze me.

Blood oranges have a season of only a few months so grab them by the crate load and use abundantly while you can. Fortunately, they are incredibly versatile and it’s not a problem to think of a multitude of mouthwatering uses: beautiful salads with simple, clean flavours; zingy feel-good juices; classy cocktails; citrus singing cakes and tarts; elegant puddings such as soufflés and Panna Cotta; and jewel-toned marmalade. And don’t get me started on icecream and sorbet. Just like asparagus and Jersey potatoes, their special status is preserved by their swift season and my excitement would definitely not be so palpable if available all year round.


Although grown in California, most of the oranges in our shops come from southern Mediterranean and Italy in particular. The best fruits are meant to grow in the volcanic rich soils of Sicily, where the classic winter salad of blood orange, fennel and olive oil is popular – throw in some plump olives and you’ve got heaven on a plate. This stunning Sicilian salad of blood oranges and fennel provides the inspiration for the recipe here.

It’s a simple salad with vibrant colours and palette-awakening flavours; perfect for a weekend lunch or light starter. The earthy sweet beetroot provides a perfect platform for the slightly tart orange, salty feta, delicate aniseed from the fennel and distinctive taste of the walnuts. Toasted hazelnuts or almonds are also particularly good. There’s a mix of textures to keep things interesting and a scattering of mint gives a lovely freshness to the whole dish. With one bite of this salad, you will forget the grey winter outside and be temporarily transported to the sunshine blessed island of Sicily with azure seas, stunning coastlines and majestic mountains.

Serves 2

2 medium cooked beetroot, cut into rounds
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly
2 blood orange, peeled and cut into rounds
70g feta, cut into cubes
30g walnuts toasted and roughly chopped
Handful of mint leaves

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp orange juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Half tsp runny honey

  1. Steam the beetroot for about 1 hour, depending on size. Allow to cool and, with gloves on your hands, slide off the skin. Cut into thin rounds and set aside.
  2. Remove any tough exterior of the fennel bulb and cut in half lengthways. Using a mandolin carefully shave the fennel into thin slices. Alternatively, use a sharp knife and cut as thinly as possible. If preparing in advance, squeeze some lemon juice over to prevent it going brown.Toast the walnuts in a frying pan over a low-medium heat until golden. Keep shaking the pan so they don’t burn. Roughly chop.
  3. Cut the top and bottom off the oranges so they are flat, then using a sharp knife cut the peel and pith from each orange. Cut into thin rounds.
  4. Cut the feta into cubes and set aside. Then for the dressing, put all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until emulsified.
  5. Assemble by laying the beetroot on the bottom and then the fennel and oranges. Scatter over the feta and walnuts, finishing with a drizzle of the dressing and a handful of mint leaves.