Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fancy Fennel, Simple Salad

This past week, I undertook something that I hadn't ever. I invited a large number of people over for dinner. Eight, to be exact. (And yes, that is a large number for me.) I was very nervous as I haven't cooked for that large a number in all these years. It was a day off from work and I spent about 6-7 hours prepping and cooking and assembling, with a break of about two hours for shopping and lunch.

There is a hypermarket at the far end of the road we live on and getting there is a journey. But the reward for it were some small (read relatively inexpensive) boxes of strawberries, good black grapes and a bulb of fennel (which produces the saunf we Indians are familiar with) that I've never seen here earlier. I took the smallest of those, which cost Rs 40, knowing I would make a salad that I'd eaten I don't remember where earlier.

The fennel stayed in my fridge for three days - naturally, I'd forgotten all about it as I'd not opened the vegetable crisper as I hadn't needed to cook because there were lots of leftovers from The Dinner for Eight People - till I remembered about it yesterday. (In the process, I also noticed a big bunch of greens, which I converted into two stir fries, one with the leaves and one with the stalks.) Then I set about looking for recipes and then for sites which would tell me how to process fennel into paper-thin shavings. I realised rapidly it wouldn't be a simple case of taking the peeler and shaving it - it involved 'removing tough outer portions', 'cutting off the stalks and saving them for use in soups later' and such.

I regret to say my fennel didn't come with any 'ferns' or 'fronds' (just a few tiny, ragged, blackening-at-the-tips leaves) and the inner portions seemed as tough as the outer portions. My bulb of fennel was rapidly attenuating as I attempted to remove the Tough Outer Portions, so I simply stopped discarding the T. O. P. after a minute or so and cut it into thin strips.

'Aromatic' is an understatement, and, I think, rather inaccurate. My fennel smelt of an entity that could straddle the paint and petroleum derivatives categories and yet be pleasant - I can't be more accurate than that myself.

I looked for recipes for simple fennel salad and chose this though I didn't have half the ingredients with me. (I had powdered Parmesan cheese in a tin, which I didn't want to risk using.) So I made it with just fennel, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper but felt that it lacked something, so added a sliced onion to the mix. It was just right.

Fennel bulb, cut into strips: 150-200 gm
Onion, small/medium: 1, sliced thin and well separated
Olive oil: 2 tbsp
Lime juice: from 1 big lime
Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Mix the olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper and whisk a little with a fork till it begins to emulsify. Pour it over the fennel and onion and mix. It tastes good a couple of hours later.

I read that India produces about 30,000 tonnes of fennel (not sure how recent the link is) but I do wonder, what happens to all those bulbs?

I'm sending this off to Astrid who's hosting Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging this week, now managed by Haalo.


  1. 30,000 tonnes of Fennel in India!! And to think of that they are categorized & placed in the exotic section of veggie dept.. Wonder where do these bulbs light. I rarely see them in my supermarket.
    Am going to try this simple and light salad soon.

  2. 8 people is a LOT! I'm impressed.

    This fennel salad looks delicious!

  3. Looks yummy.

    And eight people is considered just the right about for a dinner party: enough to mingle, but not too many that guests get lost. Will you do it again?

  4. looks so very yummy!

    Thank you for joining us this week at Weekend Herb Blogging!
    The round up is up at:

  5. Hope your Eight People Dinner was successful at the end! :-)

  6. Wow Sra! I am impressed :D . Have never picked the so-called hyped vegs off the section in the so-called market for not knowing what to make of them to suit our palate.

  7. Fennel bulbs taste just TOO strong for me - definitely within the "paint and petroleum derivatives" description, and not entirely on the side of pleasant tasting. I find very little goes a very long way! :) Bravo for eating it at all!

  8. Sra,
    There have been many times that I have passed from this aisle in my supermarket where fennel bulbs are kept..but couldnt pick it up..and thats really impressive cooking for 8..bravo!! hugs and smiles

  9. For some reason, I've not tried cooking with fennel - infact I don't think i've tasted either. Salad looks good.

    So, what did you cook for the party of 8? :)

  10. I get the nerves too...though I've cooked for 26 once. Why did your fennel smell like paint? I actually like fennel, try it in a desi fusion spaghetti.

  11. I love fennel. The freshness it exudes is simply awesome. I once made a fennel salad with freshly squeezed OJ, that was my lunch that day.

  12. Love the name of your post. very rhyming :)

    Never used fennel (other than seeds) in my cooking, so looks interesting.

  13. I have stayed an arm's length away from fennel even though it is readily available here. Never can think of making anything with it. Have to say, you try out more exotic or unusual herbs and vegetables in India than I do here.

  14. i love the looks and sound of this salad. simple and delicious. ;-)


  15. Cooking for 8 is definitely no easy task. The salad looks good, but your description of the smell of those bulbs tells me I'll never try it out.

  16. Love the "paint and petroleum derivative description :) and didnt we love inhaling petrol fumes when we were children ;)

  17. This is one of favorite vegetables, and I have always wondered whether it is available in India as the seeds are quite popular there. It might be a stupid question, but do the seeds grow inside these bulbs? I mean can we still get the seeds if the bulbs are removed, which might explain why the bulbs are exotic?

  18. Sig, the seeds come from the flowers, the bulb is underneath. Well, at least that's what it looked like on Google Images ;)


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