Sunday, January 30, 2011
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.
Weekend Herb Blogging Vegan Salad Fennel Fennel