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Simple seared fennel & pumpkin salad

May 24, 2012

The prices of fennel bulbs in Sydney almost makes me wonder if they are secretly a staple food in Australia. It took me a while to reach for one though, because normally I only consider fennel bulb edible if it’s shaved paper thin or caramelised in the oven Ottolenghi-style, but when the only knives you have are blunt as hell and you don’t have an hour to roast a side dish…well, it turns out great discoveries can be made.

I’ve been enjoying thickly sliced fennel bulb that is seared whilst covered in the pan, which keeps it refreshing but a little sweet with a hum of aniseed, rather than a blast. It’s like lazy roasted fennel basically. It retains a slippery crunch as long as you sear it on a high-ish heat and not for so long that it goes limp and squishy (if this happens, you could potentially puree it and stir through some cream cheese for an interesting dip). The end result reminds me a little of a sweeter, more fragrant version of celery. It also doesn’t require a mandoline, mad knife skills, slow stewing or cooking then roasting!

The seared fennel is glorious with crumbled feta or haloumi as pictured above, with some pumpkin and carrots cooked the same way as the fennel to bring out their sweetness. For extra health brownie points I added some butter beans and crunchy buttery lettuce, and chowed it all down with some focaccia. You can take it in whatever direction you like, but the fennel, pumpkin and/or carrots, and some tangy white cheese are a lovely combination. The pasta version (minus the lettuce) with feta is wonderful, because all the flavoured oils and feta coat the pasta for a lovely sweet/salty dish that doesn’t need any extra seasoning. You could go for kalamata or green olives that have been marinated in lemon for an equally yummy vegan option too.

Seared fennel & pumpkin salad

makes as much or as little as you like, but the quantities below make enough for 2 as a main with some bread or tossed with cooked pasta

  • 1/2 large fennel bulb, thickly sliced (across the lines)
  • about 2c peeled pumpkin,* cut into triangularish** chunks about 1″ (2.5cm)
  • optional: 1 carrot, cut into bite size chunks (slightly smaller than the pumpkin is fine)
  • 150-200g feta, crumbled, or haloumi slices seared on two sides
  • optional: greens as a bed, or the fennel greens as a garnish

*Go for butternut, buttercup, or crown pumpkin, that is deeply orange. Avoid yellowy or pale orange pumpkin, which will not be very sweet.

**Some corners will cook faster and these help the pumpkin form a bit of a sauce when tossed with everything else. If this messy approach doesn’t wash well with you, cut into cubes.

Add about 2-3 Tbs oil to a large frying pan (it is essential that the veges aren’t stacked too high), add pumpkin and carrot, cover and let cook on medium high heat until the bottoms of the vege chunks start going golden brown. Add a small splash of water, stir, cover again and cook until brown on the underside. Test for doneness with a small sharp knife (or try a piece). It’s ok if they are ever-so-slightly undercooked, as they will keep cooking a bit as they cool. Remove from pan.

Cook fennel the same way. Turn off the heat and add the pumpkin back into the pan, along with pasta if using. Add most of the feta/haloumi and stir. Plate (place on top of salad greens if using) and top with remaining feta and fennel greens if using.

Currently clickalicious

Brandy snaps @ Lottie and Doof

Double chocolate banana brownie @ De La Casa

Ginger bourbon pecan pie @ Poires au Chocolat

Strawberry jam with brown sugar and orange zest @ Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide

Mulled wine spiced quinces @ Gin and Juniper

Foodie Fave

I picked up some amaranth flakes and am using them left right and centre! I feel like it deserves its own post but feel free to email me with any ideas and I’ll mention them as well (with credit of course!).

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2012 11:59 pm

    Wow, look at that. Made clickalicious! Woo hoo. This recipe’s great, sort of bridges the seasons.

  2. May 25, 2012 10:26 am

    Yum, have some fennels now but never thought of combining them with pumpkin, most unusual! Did you move to Australia???

    Ciao
    Alessandra

  3. May 26, 2012 1:16 pm

    This looks delicious! Fennel + pumpkin = heaven in my opinion.

  4. May 26, 2012 11:14 pm

    Yum I love fennel bulbs, I never would have thought of putting it with pumpkin though. I’m always stuck for ideas and end up making the same old thing, so I’m glad I came across this recipe, it sounds awesome.

  5. June 1, 2012 1:59 pm

    I would have never thought of putting pumpkin in a salad…I love this! Thanks for inspiring me…

  6. June 3, 2012 12:48 pm

    R: Love followin your blog, what can I say :)

    A: haha, yes it was very much an experiment. The sweetness combined is really something though.

    P: If only I had known sooner!

    L: Same! Necessity really is the mother of invention I think.

    C: You should visit NZ or Australia sometime. We love putting pumpkin in savoury dishes and salads (with spinach and feta is a cafe staple) :)

  7. June 4, 2012 4:04 am

    What a lovely combination of flavors! Delightful :)

  8. June 4, 2012 2:51 pm

    Love it, Zo! Great combination of flavours :)

  9. June 7, 2012 12:21 pm

    Looks great. Will have to try this – my one attempt with fennel was (over) roasted, and it had lost all hints of anise (which I kind of like).

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