Fennel Salad with Giant Cous Cous and Preserved Lemon

Fennel is an amazing vegetable, in that it seems possible to grow it almost all year round. On my allotment, along with the chard, it is one of the few vegetables I seem to have success with in summer and winter alike. However, with it’s beautiful, fresh shade of palest green, it always makes me think of spring. I like to embrace the spring theme, by adding it to a salad with lots of zesty lemon and peppery rocket. This would make a great salad to accompany a barbeque although you may have to wait a few more weeks to enjoy that!

Fennel Salad with Giant Cous Cous and Preserved Lemon 2

Fennel Salad with Giant Cous Cous and Preserved Lemon

Preserved lemons and giant cous cous are now readily available in large supermarkets.You can use normal cous cous if you like.

Serves 2 as a starter or 4 as a side.

1 head of fennel

100g giant cous cous (or normal cous cous)

Juice from half a lemon

A really good extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

A couple of preserved lemons

Handful of Rocket

Put the cous cous in a pan and cover with water. Add a large pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes until the coux cous in tender and not at all chalky. Drain and leave to cool for a little. Meanwhile, very thinly slice the fennel. A mandolin is good for this. Mix the lemon juice with some salt and extra virgin olive oil until you have a delicious dressing. You need to get the balance just right so keep on tasting as you add the oil. You will need about 100mls. Add a little of this dressing to the cous cous and put the fennel in the rest. Mix well. Finley chop the preserved lemons, removing any seeds and add to the cous cous. Taste and add a little juice from the jar of preserved lemon to taste. Arrange the rocket on a large plate and scatter with the cous cous. Finally, top with the fennel and drizzle any remaining dressing over the leaves.

Shaved Fennel

Turlu Turlu

Good to my word, I tried out a fresh tomato sauce, just to see how it turned out. As far as I know, there are two schools of tomato sauce. The Italian version which consists of no more than olive oil, garlic and tomatoes and maybe a little basil, or the French version which can contain pretty much anything. I believe that this is because the Italian version relies heavily on superb ingredients, including very good tinned Italian plum tomatoes, so I decided to opt for the French. I used some onion, celery and garlic in my base, sweated down with olive oil and I added some wild dried Oregano. The results where certainly good enough for this week’s recipe of Turlu Turlu. This is a sort of Turkish Ratatouille, and just the sort of recipe I love. It literally means hotchpotch and can incorporate any number of different vegetables mixed with chickpeas, tomato sauce and lots of herbs. It is a great use up dish and I had a whole array of vegetables in the bottom of my fridge, which all went in, including beetroot, parsnips, red onions, red peppers, courgettes, sweet potatoes, fennel and carrots and of course, the tomatoes. But you could have added potatoes, squash, green peppers, cauliflower, aubergine or any other vegetable you have to hand.

veg for Turlu Turlu

This recipe seems a little more complicated than it is, but only because I insist on separating the vegetables up which cook better on their own. They need a lot of room and different times and this way, all your vegetables are perfectly roasted. It is worth the effort.

As for my tomato sauce – I am not sure it was good enough to just serve on its own with pasta but I will keep working on it and let you know how I get on.

Turlu Turlu 2

Turlu Turlu
Serves 4
1 red onions, cut into into 8 wedges through the root
1 large red bell pepper, de-seeded, and cut into large bit-sized chunks
1 head fennel, cut into into 8 wedges through the root
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into large bit-sized chunks
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into large bit-sized chunks
A few beetroot, peeled and cut into large bit-sized chunks
3 courgettes, cut into 1cm slices, slightly on the diagonal
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes, or to taste

For the sauce
6 Large ripe tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 small onions, finely sliced

1 tin chickpeas, drained
Freshly chopped coriander
Freshly chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Toss the red onion and red pepper with some coriander, cumin, chilli flakes, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Tip onto a tray and put in the oven. Toss the fennel with some coriander, cumin, chilli flakes, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Tip onto a tray, making sure as much surface area as possible is in contact with the tray and put in the oven. Combine the root vegetables – parsnips, beetroot and sweet potato. Toss with some coriander, cumin, chilli flakes, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Tip onto a tray and put in the oven. Toss the courgettes with some coriander, cumin, chilli flakes, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Tip onto a tray, make sure as much surface area as possible is in contact with the tray and put in the oven. You will have to check your veg regularly, and rotate veg to ensure even cooking, When your veg are cooked and a little caramelised remove them. Each tray will slightly different time. Meanwhile make your sauce. Sauté the onion and celery slowly in plenty of olive oil, for a s long as possible. Meanwhile, put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Cut a small cross in the top of your tomatoes. Add them to the pan of boiling water and boil for 1-2 minutes, until the skins begin to come away. Remove them with a slotted spoon and plunge them into a bowl of cold water. Remove the skins and roughly chop. Add the garlic to the onions and fry a minute more before adding the tomatoes. Cook down gently until the tomatoes have completely dissolved, Season with salt and pepper and oregano. Puree with a hand blender.

Just before your final tray of veg is ready, add the chickpeas and tomato sauce to the tray and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Then remove and add all your veg together. Stir gently to avoid mushing up the veg. Allow to cool slightly before adding your herbs. Serve warm or room temperature.

Turlu Turlu 3

Grilled Chicken with Almond Dressing, Avocado and Vegetable Salad

It is not only Omega 3 which provides good fats. Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats are also good. A moderation of saturated fats is also acceptable from whole milk, coconut oil and grass-fed meat but tran-fats should be avoided at all costs in commercially baked goods, packaged snack foods, margarine and commercially prepared fried foods.
To make sure you are getting enough good fats (Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated) stock up on avocados, olives, nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews and walnuts), seeds (sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds), flaxseed and fatty fish.
Luckily I had a couple of Avocados in my box this week so I set about making up a new salad. I am particularly pleased with the salad dressing which turned out really creamy and fresh, I just used tarragon, which always goes well with chicken and some basil for added zing. I also like chicken cooked in this butterflied method as it cooks in minutes as it is so thin, and stays really juicy and tender. Finally, of course you can add any other vegetables you have to hand and your salad leaves are up to you too. I used a mixture of rocket, watercress and a few sprigs of mint mixed through the green Batavia lettuce in my box this week.

Chicken Salad with Almond Dressing 2

Grilled Chicken with Almond Dressing, Avocado and Vegetable Salad
Dressing
50g almonds, soaked
A few sprigs of what herbs you fancy – coriander, basil, parsley or tarragon, leaves picked
100ml extra virgin olive oil

2 x 150g chicken breasts
Zest of a lemon
Dried oregano
Extra virgin olive oil
Mixed salad leaves and maybe a few sprigs of herbs
1 bulb fennel
1 carrot
1 small courgette
1 ripe avocado
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
lemon wedges, to serve

For the dressing drain the almonds, add the olive oil, the herbs, a good pinch of salt and pepper and some water and puree with a hand blender until smooth and creamy. Add more water to get a good consistency and check for seasoning.

Take each chicken breast and cut it through the from one side to the other, stopping just short of the edge. This is difficult to explain so please follow link. Unfold the chicken breast and lay flat. Season with salt and pepper, dried oregano and lemon zest on both sides. Drizzle with olive oil.
Shave the fennel, courgette and carrot with a mandolin. Peel and thinly slice the avocado. Dress the salad and shaved vegetables with a little olive oil and a small pinch of salt. Arrange on plates. Heat a griddle pan of just a large frying pan. Arrange the avocado on the plates with the salad. Grill the chicken on both sides until just cooked. Place on top of the salad. Drizzle with almond dressing and serve with a wedge of lemon.

Chicken Salad with Almond Dressing

Roast Celeriac and Fennel Soup

Finally, for this week I was wondering what to do with the left over fennel and celeriac I had from my slaw. I tried out a Roast Fennel and Celeriac Soup, to which I added lots of freshly chopped rosemary and a drizzle of white truffle oil and it made a very nice lunch.

Roast Celeriac and Fennel Soup

Roast Celeriac and Fennel Soup
Extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced
4 clove garlic, peeled
2 medium celeriac, chopped into even sized chunks
1 medium bulb fennel, cleaned and trimmed and cut into wedges lengthways through the root
A few sprigs of rosemary, very finely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100mls double cream
White truffle oil

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Toss the celeriac and fennel together with plenty of olive oil, salt, pepper and the rosemary and spared out on a roasting tray. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or so, checking from time to time, until golden brown. About half way through cooking time, add the whole garlic cloves.

Meanwhile, sweat the onion in a large heavy bottomed saucepan with some olive oil over medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes until just beginning to caramelise. When the roast vegetables are ready, tip them in with the onions. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, and simmer the vegetables for about 10 minutes until very tender. Puree with a hand-blender until smooth. Adjust the seasoning and add the cream. Serve with a drizzle of truffle oil.

Celeriac

Christmas Slaw

I accidentally somehow ended up watching a Nigella Christmas special last night. I think she is an intelligent and beautiful woman but she always comes over as somewhat smug and rather revoltingly, overtly sexy for me to watch for very long. It was long enough however, to catch her version of a Christmas Slaw which I thought might be particularly fitting for all you veg box lovers, to use up some of those winter veg. This is a great dish for boxing day with cold meats and chutney. You can add what you like, but I went for a very pleasant combination of celeriac, fennel, pointed cabbage, red cabbage, carrots and pear, which is very attractively colourful as well. Almost jewelled with its striking combination of purple and orange, so bear this in mind when choosing your veg. The spicy, caramelised pecans add a seasonal note. A mandolin is best for the job of quickly shredding your veg, so if you haven’t got a good one, why not treat yourself to one this Christmas. A food processor will not produce such pretty results although I am sure it will taste just as good.

Christmas slaw 2

Christmas Slaw
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1 medium fennel, trimmed and very thinly sliced
¼ pointed or savoy cabbage, shredded very thin
¼ red cabbage, shredded very thin
¼ a celeriac, peeled and coarsely grated
1 pear, very finely sliced
Dressing
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp maple syrup
3 tbsp olive oil
Juice of one orange
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the spiced pecans
120g cashew nuts, roughly chopped (or other toasted nuts)
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp chilli flakes

Heat the oven to 160C/320F.

Mix the nuts with the syrup, the cinnamon, the chilli and a good pinch of salt. Line a baking sheet with grease proof paper and tip on the nuts. Spread out and roast for 10-12 minutes, until golden and crunchy. Stir from time to time to ensure even cooking. Remove and set aside to cool.

Put all the vegetables in a large bowl.

For the dressing, whisk together the mustard, maple syrup, olive oil, orange juice, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and an eighth of a teaspoon of pepper. Pour this over the vegetables and mix well. Add the spiced nuts, stir to combine and serve.

Fennel