As I’ve now committed to sharing recipes here, please enjoy this one, which was a surprisingly popular one in my instagram DMs despite not being a particularly aesthetic dish. It’s also been a big hit with all those I’ve served it to, so enjoy this recipe as an early Christmas present, Helen!
This Shaved Fennel Salad is so simple that I feel a little ridiculous writing a big long recipe for it. I first encountered this dish at a restaurant in Milan. As someone who would usually roast fennel, this was super refreshing take. When I finally got a food processor I made haste to use the oft-underloved slicing attachment to make it.
Even those who hate fennel, which is a pretty divisive vegetable, tend to enjoy this dish. This is likely because of the mellowing effect of the acidic lemon on the usually strong aniseed-y flavour of fennel.
Serves: 4 as a generous side
2 medium-sized fennel bulbs (about 800g gross weight)
1 lemon, juiced (about 50ml)
50ml extra virgin olive oil
30g parmesan (optional, omit if vegan)
Salt & pepper, to taste
- Trim the stalks and end of the fennel (the stalks can be used in other ways if you want to avoid waste, but they are very fibrous and not appropriate for a raw dish)
- Slice fennel thinly – I recommend using a food processor or mandolin, but if doing so manually be careful! Place in the bowl in which you intend to serve.
- Mix together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper (I used 1/2 tsp salt and I’m very generous with the pepper).
- Pour over lemon juice mix and toss together, adding more olive oil to taste (as I’ve said before, a fear of oil will not fly in Swiss Italy), salt and pepper to taste.
- [Optional] shave parmesan and add to the mix, reserving some to top the dish.
- The dish can be made several hours in advance of serving, and I recommend giving it at least half an hour to sit, covered, in the fridge and let the flavours meld together.
Equipment Required? a food processor with a slicing attachment will make your life a lot easier here, but it’s not a necessity! A mandolin would suffice, or simply a sharp knife and some well-developed slicing skills (of which I am not in possession – I’d probably lose a finger).
Leftover rating: 3/3. The lemon and oil help to preserve the fennel and almost pickle it, and the fennel flavour gets a bit milder as a result, making this possibly even nicer the following day!
One thing to note, however, is that the fresher the fennel used in the first place, the better – if it’s looking a little brown you’d be better off using it to roast.
The parmesan here is very much optional – it makes the dish a bit prettier, but I actually prefer it without, which has the added benefit of making it vegan. It will also keep a little better sans parmesan, which will become a little soggy.
Grana Padano and Pecorino would be very worthy substitutes for parmesan here as well. This Bon Appetit recipe adds bread crumbs, walnuts and herbs, all of which I don’t doubt would be delicious if you want to bulk it up.
Being a vegetarian with a meat-eating boyfriend, I serve this as a side for whichever given meat dish he’s having that day and will have my own form of protein. This is a great picnic dish (the trendiest meal format in the era of Covid) and lovely served with a smorgasbord of other salads. It would go nicely as a side for most Italian dishes if you want to stay true to tradition.
Fennel should be fairly easy to come by in the UK (I saw it all the time at North End Road market, of course). Luckily for me it’s an Italian staple and totally ubiquitous in Lugano, but should you have any trouble finding it – I don’t doubt you will in Hong Kong – the Italian speciality shops I listed in my last post should stock it.
I promise that my next recipe will be a little more complex / worthy of being a recipe at all, but for now, enjoy!