I’ve always loved fennel; crisp, crunchy and raw it’s always a welcome addition to my salads and slaws. In season, I love to slice my bulbs as thinly as I can on my mandolin, toss them with peppery baby rocket leaves and dress with a lemony vinaigrette and parmesan shavings. For some, its subtle aniseed flavour might be an acquired taste, but I find it refreshing and palate cleansing.
Sautéed, roasted or grilled, fennel takes on an entirely different personality. Lightly charred or caramelised, it’s lusciously sweet, rich and complex. With market stalls awash with fennel bulbs, it should come as no surprise it’s been finding their way into all manner of hearty late winter tray bakes, soups and braises.
For something a little different, recently I’ve taken to charring fennel wedges or slices over a hot grill and serving them warm, salad style. Simply dressed with lemon, parmesan and herbs. Delicious on it’s own, it’s also the perfect side to serve with all manner of steamed, roasted or grilled seafood. Needless to say at just 103 calories per serve, it’s now also attained new favourite status in my 5-2 fast day repertoire.
Warm Fennel Salad With Lemon, Parmesan and Herbs
Serves 2 (103 calories per serve)
1 large (250g) fennel bulb (35 calories)
1 tablespoon olive oil (120 calories)
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon juice (3 calories)
2 tablespoons (10g) finely grated parmesan (44 calories)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (1 calorie)
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley (1 calorie)
1 tablespoon finely chopped long green spring onions (scallions) (2 calories)
sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
TO PREPARE FENNEL, remove stalks, reserving tender green fennel fronds for garnish. Trim bulb of any tough outer leaves. Stand bulb upright and slice the fennel in half vertically from top to bottom, keeping the core intact to hold the slices together. The core will become tender with cooking.
SLICE each half into four or five ½ cm thick slices, depending on the size of the bulb
Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
HEAT a grill pan over medium-high heat, add any remaining olive oil to the pan and grill fennel slices turning until lightly charred on each side and firm yet tender to the touch, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
TRANSFER to serving a platter drizzle with lemon juice. Scatter over finely grated lemon zest, parmesan, parsley, spring onions and reserved fennel fronds. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve warm.