Pomegranate #4 – Fennel, Orange and Pomegranate Salad

If you are scared of fennel and/or believe you do not like it – try this recipe! It will bring you round to the absolutely gorgeous fresh and crunchy taste that is fennel and you will never look back!

A few words about fennel, if nothing else than to broaden the mind and make you appreciate this little, fat, white bulb!

  • Fennel is widely cultivated for its edible, strongly flavoured leaves and fruits and its aniseed flavour comes from anethol, an aromatic compound also found in star anise. Its taste and aroma is therefore similar to this, though not as strong.
  • Health benefits of fennel include relief from anemia, indigestion, wind, constipation, colic, diarrhea, respiratory disorders and menstrual disorders.
  • Using fennel in food helps protect eyes from inflammation this due to the presence of both ani oxidants and vitamin C which are both very beneficial for the rejuvenation of tissues and prevention of aging – read more about vitamin C here and anti oxidants here).
  • If you suffer from indigestion, or bad breath (or both!), try chewing fennel seeds after your meal – this is apparently common in India.

I have used a few recipes as inspiration (telegraph, bbc, woman’s hour website) but combined my own favourite bits to make this a really stunning starter, a quick lunch or even an afternoon bite of food (if you are going to be having a late dinner maybe?)

The best thing about the recipe is the seasonality of it – it is a real winter salad with oranges being at their best at the moment, and fennel readily available. Furthermore the children love the sweet crunch – and it looks beautiful with the emerald pomegranate seeds scattered around. It is bright and fresh, in taste and colour, and will bring a smile to your face.

Fennel, Orange and Pomegranate Salad

1 fennel bulb – medium – washed, centre removed
2 oranges
Seeds of 1/2 a pomegranate
Lump of feta cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp runny honey
(fresh chilli is a lovely addition as are a few fresh mint sprigs)
  • Wash the fennel bulb and core it – this is easily done by cutting the bulb in half and removing core as you would that of an apple
  • Slice the fennel thinly – julienne style strips – and throw them in a bowl
  • Peel the oranges with a knife removing all of the white pith. Cut in between the membranes to release each small section of orange – do this over the fennel bowl so as to catch the juices as they drip
  • Break the feta into small pieces and throw into the fennel bowl
  • Clean and prepare the pomegranate seeds (read more here) and add to the bowl
  • In a jar combine the olive oil lemon juice, red wine vinegar and honey and shake – pour this dressing over the salad and toss gently
  • Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled – if you want to, add the mint for presentation and flavour and the chilli for an extra kick! It is lovely on its own but also gorgeous with fish or meat.

Pomegranate #1 – Benefits and Throw-in Salad

January is a bit of a dark and dreary month – grey, prone to be wet, often lacking in both snow and sun as well as full of people making New Year’s resolutions, and breaking them!

After enjoying the theme of rye I wanted another healthy, but prettier and more colourful subject to finish off January! What better one than Pomegranate. Absolutely brimming with health, beautiful to look at and eat, crunchy, juicy, sweet and sour – it has it all.

Thought to be native to Persia, the fruit is now grown everywhere from Spain to California. It features richly in mythology, as a symbol of birth, eternal life, and death, owing to its abundance of seeds and ability to ‘bleed’. The deep red skin of the pomegranate was thought to link it to the blood of the earth, a taboo colour. Hence the fruit’s association with forbidden desire (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/3937053.stm).

The edible pomegranate fruit is a berry and has thick reddish skin. There can be between 200 and 1400 seeds in a pomegranate fruit and to many these are considered a nightmare to remove! A few tips to those that fall in this category:

  • open the pomegranate by scoring it with a knife and breaking it open then chuck it all into a bowl filled with cold, clean tap water. The red arils (seeds) will sink and the inedible pulp float – it works a treat
  • according to Wikipedia, another option is to cut the pomegranate in half, score each half of the exterior rind four to six times, hold the pomegranate half over a bowl and smack the rind with a large spoon. The arils should eject from the pomegranate directly into the bowl, leaving only a dozen or more deeply embedded arils to remove (I can imagine the mess though and have personally never done it this way!!)

Apart from providing an abundance of Vitamin C as well as fibre, pomegranates are filled with antioxidants – as raspberries and other berries – which protect the body from the nasty chemicals in the blood (which gets there through our own bad habits! Read more about that here!). Finally it can help to prevent heart disease, relieve stress and may improve your sex life – if that is not enough to convince you to try some of my recipes, the fruit may hold the key of youth (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2060163/Pomegranate-prevents-heart-disease-improves-sex-life-elixir-youth.html)!

As a start, here is a stunning way to enjoy the pomegranate seeds! A throw-it-all-in salad!

Pomegranate Throw-in Salad

green leaves of your choice – I love watercress, baby spinach and rocket leaves
boiled or poached egg – semi-hard to hard-boiled/poached
half the seeds of a pomegranate
grated carrot
big spoonful of hummus
thick slices of roast turkey breast (or pieces of turkey ends)
red pepper slices
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar (or glaze)
  • Boil an egg for 8-9 minutes or poach for 5 minutes – let cool
  • Wash and pat try your leaves and lay them on a plate
  • Wash and grate a carrot and place on leaves
  • Slice open an avocado, cut into slices and lay these on leaves
  • Lay the turkey ends on the leaves
  • Wash and slice a red pepper – lay some of the slices on your place
  • Lay a great big dollop of hummus on the side of the leaves – recipe here
  • Throw on some olives
  • Scatter a small handful of blueberries on top
  • Finally, the  pièce de résistance, the pomegranate seeds! Prepare as mentioned above and scatter generously on the leaves
  • Dress with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or glaze)
  • Serve with a piece of toasted rye bread, bread sticks, rye crisps….choices are many!

Chilli and Lemon Prawns

This is stunning! The combination of flavours is perfect! Probably one for the grown ups unless you have a chilli loving child!

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp runny honey
Handful of fresh parsley
1/2 an onion
3 cloves garlic
Small piece of cinnamon stick – about a third
1cm ginger root grated
1 fresh chilli – large red one – or several of the tiny red ones
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 stick of lemon grass cut into smaller pieces
Salt to season

Olive oil to cook

  • Place all ingredients except prawns, lemon juice and zest and lemon grass in a food processor and blend until finely chopped
  • Add lemon zest, juice and lemon grass pieces and stir by hand
  • Peel prawns leaving tail on – remove any veins. Place in glass or ceramic bowl and pour over the sauce (stir to cover evenly). Season slightly with a bit of salt.
  • Place in the fridge for 2 hours to marinade
  • Before frying -remove lemon grass
  • Heat oil in pan/wok and add prawns. High heat – stir fry for 5 minutes
  • Serve with sticky rice, on top of sald or with the lemon linguini (in recipe section). Hey, they are so good you can even eat them as a snack on their own – but that might just be a bit indulgent….