The first time I visited my Italian friend, Patrizia, at her home on Italy’s Liguria coast, her mother made a beautiful winter meal of prawns, chilli, rosemary and garlic pasta followed by a salad of paper thin raw fennel, lightly dressed with lemon juice, local Ligurian extra virgin olive oil and coarse flakes of sea salt.
I have such a vivid picture in my head of that dinner, sitting around the tiny kitchen table with Patrizia and her family, adding the fennel salad to my plate with absolutely no idea of the huge, big, fat, aniseed, sour flavours that would hit my mouth from these 4 innocuous ingredients. I urge you to make it and you’ll see what I mean.
Fennel is in season during the winter months.
Miraculous ingredients: Fennel bulb (with a fat middle), extra virgin olive oil
Fennel with lemon juice & extra virgin olive oil
1 large fennel bulb – choose the ones that have a fat round middle rather than those with a slender bulb
1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon of coarse sea salt flakes
Wash and trim the leaves and stems from the fennel bulb. Cut the bulb in half from the top to the root and slice very finely with a mandolin.
Mandolins are the best tool to create paper thin, see-through slices of fennel, but they are evil! Watch your fingers when using the mandolin, use a hand guard, as I can’t tell you how painful it is if you slice your finger. It’s important to get the fennel sliced super thin as any thicker and it’s too much hard work to chew.
Add the fennel slices to a salad bowl, squeeze on the lemon juice, drizzle the olive oil, sprinkle on the sea salt, mix and serve up.
Preparation time 10 minutes, serves 4