Now I am normally one to try anything and there is simply nothing I do not eat but fennel was something I was never overly zealous to experiment with at home.
I always imagined that raw fennel had an overpowering taste of aniseed, which gives me horrendous flashbacks to shots of Sambucca from my teenage years… without giving too much insight into my drinking days let’s just say I have had enough of that for a lifetime. I was concerned I would not be able to prepare it in such a way that it wouldn’t smack of underage drinking..
But on a recent visit to my mother’s house we wanted a fresh and interesting salad to have with the most perfect, simple pasta dish, and low and behold her local supermarket had fennel!
This was beautifully fresh, light and a perfect accompaniment to the slightly spicy pasta dish, and I imagine amazing with any meats, and pasta dishes. And it is one of those quick things that doesn’t seem like a recipe; you simply cut combine and enjoy.
Fennell and Pear Salad
- 1 fennel, trimmed, fronds reserved
- 2 firm green skinned pears
- 2 tbspns extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbspns lemon juice
- 100g parmesan or pecorino Romano shaved
- 2 tbs walnuts, toasted and chopped
- Salt and Pepper
Slice both the fennel and pear as finely as possible. Keep the pear slices large, but thin, by standing the pear up and slicing from the outside in.
In a bowl, mix the oil, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the slices of pear and fennel on a platter, and shave over parmesan. Drizzle with the oil and lemon mix and garnish with the fennel fronds! Fennel can brown if left to stand for too long so make this as you intend to serve it.
Oh, and what about this pasta you ask..! Well. It embodies everything I love about Italian cuisine. Freshness, flavour, and the mind blowing combination of things that are simply made for each other. My handsome friend Antonio Carluccio when asked what his go to dinner party dish was said this was it. He said it has everything you need in a dish for a party, simplicity, flavour and leaves you with time to spend and relax with your guests. Such a stud.
Chilli, Garlic and Lemon. Again it’s almost embarrassing to give a recipe but I so badly want other people to enjoy this as much as I do, so I am going to. But after you have made it once, you can get the confidence to use more chilli, less garlic, more oil, etc etc and make it exactly like you want it.
My Idea of Heaven Pasta
For 4 or 2… Depending on how much you enjoy it!
- 400-500g Pasta- any you like, spaghetti, spaghettini, buccatini, any!
- 150g good quality olive oil
- 2 chillies, de seeded and finely chopped
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 lemon, juice and zest
- About 150g or more of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Now all you need to do is pop your pasta on. A little tip- when the water is boiling add 10g of sea or rock salt. It adds flavour to the pasta and therefore the dish! Cook to your liking.
While the pasta is cooking, heat oil on a medium heat in a large flat frying pan, add the garlic and chillies until oil is hot, around 2 minutes. Add a large pinch of salt, lemon juice and rind stir and take off heat. Add pasta to the oil pan and combine. When combined add around half of the parmesan cheese and serve with remaining parmy and a big crack of pepper!
If this doesn’t blow your mind as much as it often does mine, I will be very surprised.
And get creative with it, you could be fancy and add some cooked prawns, squid or fresh herbs.