fennel-crusted aubergine salad with kale and pomegranate

As 2015 rolled to an end I was working on my pre-summer recipe repertoire and begun a bit of a love affair with fennel; the bulbs, the seeds and the fronds seemed to find their way into many a dish I created. Here, here and here are a few of them.

And now I am going to add one more to the list – fennel crusted aubergine served with a fresh and earthy kale and pomegranate salad.

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I must admit, this recipe was a bit of a ‘best-case scenario’ kind of thing – no one who I was cooking it for had much confidence that my idea was going to work. But it did! The eggplant came out beautifully soft and buttery sweet and the fennel fronds added a hint of smoky, liquorice crunch almost.

And it was so easy!

I sliced an eggplant into 1cm disks, salted them liberally and let them sit for about 20 minutes. I picked the fronds off a large fennel bulb and roughly chopped them, adding them to a bowl with a tablespoon of ground almonds, salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne pepper.

Once I had accomplished this task, I rinsed and dried the eggplant, I submerged each slice into a bowl of egg wash and coated both sides with the fennel frond mixture before placing them onto an oven tray, drizzling with olive oil and baking at 180°C for 30 minutes. I flipped them over at the halfway mark and topped each rondelle with a tiny dollop of butter – just for good measure.

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While the eggplant baked to delicious perfection, I shredded a bunch of kale leaves to form the base of the salad; dressed simply with extra virgin olive oil, a dash of apple cider vinegar and of course, sea salt and black pepper. I know kale is no longer the health food du jour, but I don’t care – I never ate it for its trendiness and actually like the taste; earthy leaves with a satisfying crunch and a savoury pepper favour boarding just on the edge of bitterness. Yum!

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The bronzed eggplant rings sat atop this deep green forest of kale, and for an added pop of colour, I added a scattering of pickled radish and some spherical sunset red pomegranate seeds. Each one bursting with sweet flavour to counterbalance the rest of the flavours.

Just a simple dish really, a feast easy to prepare that will blow any dinner guests away – and that’s even before they taste it!

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fennel frond salad

We are officially in summer here in New Zealand and even though that doesn’t necessarily mean endless sunshine, it does mean that fresh, crisp salads are on my mind more and more.

Whenever I go to the market, I always try and buy something I don’t usually buy, there have been some failed new flavours but if you don’t open yourself up to new possibilities, you could miss the chance of finding a new favourite.

How philosophical.

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Fennel is my flavour of the month, and this week I purchased what is potentially the biggest fennel bulb known to man. Usually when people use fennel, they stick with the bulb and just throw everything else away. What a waste! The stalks can be used just like celery and I used the fronds to make a fragrant salad.

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Begin by slicing a carrot as thinly as possible with a grater or mandolin. Coat them with a whisper of olive oil and roast until cooked through and slightly crunchy.

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Next, remove the fronds from the fennel bulb, you can use it for a range of things, like this salad. I steamed the fronds for a couple of minutes to bring out the aniseed flavour, and it made the kitchen smell like liquorice!

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While the fronds were steaming, I sliced a couple of button mushrooms are doused them in a few teaspoons of the pickling liquid from my radishes.

After drying the fronds, I tossed them through some shredded lettuce. Add the mushrooms and pickling liquid with the frond salad, along with as many rondelles of pickled radish as you like.

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Add a dash of extra virgin olive oil and some fresh mint and parsley leaves, top with the carrot chips and you have yourself a colourful rainbow salad that’s bursting with so many flavours.

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It’s a perfect accompaniment to chicken, fish or red meat, or even by itself with a croute of crusty bread.

in a bit of a pickle: radishes

I have no opening statement for this post, because I have said it all before; I love pickling things. I just love it; I love the colours it creates and I love how it captures the flavours of a season in a jar, extending the life of the ingredients and the memories.

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Pickled radishes are a staple in my kitchen. They are a lovely juxtaposition of sweet and tangy and brighten up any dish they are strewn over top of.

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The process is so simple, and unlike the lemons I pickled a few months ago, the flavour is noticeably different even within an hour.

Slice a bunch of radishes as thinly as you can – either with a grater or a mandolin and pack them as tightly as you can into a glass jar.

Cover them with a tablespoon of sugar, another of salt and a third of olive oil. Top with a glug of apple cider vinegar – enough for all of the radishes to be covered.

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Shake it up and leave it to settle, the colour of the radishes will leach out into the liquid, colouring it a beautiful bright pink which will also be absorbed into the white flesh of the radishes.

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You can even experiment with what you add to the pickling solution. What’s your favourite way of doing it?

red roasted radishes

They say that your tastebuds change every seven years, that your body almost resets itself and redefines the way it reacts to different flavours and textures. I have found that over the last year, the way that my body reacts to a variety of things has completely readjusted itself; I don’t particularly like white wine anymore and I am highly sensitive to pollen and olive trees, I have also fallen in love with radishes.

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“Fallen in love”, is technically not the right way of putting it; as a child I thought radishes were awesome. I remember being assigned a science experiment testing how radishes grew in varying environments – darkness, cold etc. and instead of placing my radishes in dank, cold cupboards where I knew they would die, I left them all on the veranda to flourish and changed the experiment to ‘how many radishes can I eat in one sitting’. But as the years progressed, leading up to my teens, I thought they were awful. I hated the peppery aftertaste, and texture; not a quite a crunch but not soft either.

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It wasn’t until a few years ago that I tried them again, and now I can’t get enough of them.

Most people are stumped at coming up with ways to use radishes that extend further than a pop of colour in a salad, but I love to roast them and cover them in brown butter sauce.

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Place your radishes, halved or quartered onto an oven tray and bake at 230°C for 20-30 minutes, until their skin is pink and crisp, not quite burning, but so close it almost hurts. The flesh will be plump and juicy, no longer dry and tart like when they’re raw.

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While they are cooking, melt a knob of butter and a pinch of salt, mix constantly over a medium heat until it shines like glassy caramel. Squeeze in a dash of lemon juice at the very last moment before serving – either pour over top of the radishes or serve on the side and dunk them in. Make sure that you have a napkin close at hand, you’ll need it to mop up the gooey butter and warm radish juice running down your chin!

raw food club: courgette and mushroom salad

Summer is upon us, my friends! I know that it feels like winter ended about yesterday, and European Spring really isn’t much better than winter, but believe me; it will just jump out from around the corner and it will be here!

Plaza de España - Sevilla, Spain
Plaza de España – Sevilla, Spain

Summer is the time for salads. There are several reasons why this is the case; when the temperature is up in the early forties, we want to spend as little time in the kitchen near a hot stove, and the idea of a hot meal is far less appealing. So here is my solution.

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This is my raw courgette and mushroom salad with feta and pickled radishes. The acid in the dressing slightly pickles the mushrooms, taking the raw edge off their earthy flavour, making them juicy with an awesome zing. In contrast, the courgette is fresh and crunchy, I slice it as thinly as possible with a mandolin to create an almost leafy texture.

For the dressing, you will need:
1 clove of crushed garlic
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

Combine all of the ingredients with a bit of salt and pepper and set aside. Peel and thinly slice 6 button mushrooms and pour the dressing over top to marinate the mushrooms. Thinly slice 2 courgettes, if you don’t have a mandolin you can use a regular knife to slice them as thinly as possible, you can also use a vegetable peeler to get a more desirable effect.

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Combine the courgette slices with 2 handfuls of torn spinach leaves, mix through the mushrooms and ¼ cup of feta (mine was homemade, just saying). Top with a small handful of pickled radishes, adding a tablespoon of the pickling liquid overtop. You could also a handful of roasted almonds or ½ of a diced avocado. The almonds could also act as a substitute for the feta.

If you are having trouble finding pickled radishes, they are so easy to make! Here is how I do it; thinly slice a bunch of radishes – enough to fill whatever size jar you have, for a small jar add ½ a teaspoon of salt and sugar each and fill the jar with vinegar or vodka. Screw the lid on and give it a good shake, the radishes will be nice and pickled after a few days and will keep for a while in the fridge. Easy!

Courgette and mushroom salad, homemade feta, spicy buttered potatoes
Courgette and mushroom salad, homemade feta, spicy buttered potatoes

This salad is takes about 10 minutes from start to finish which is perfect on a sunny day when cooking is the last thing on your mind! Serve by itself for lunch, or with some buttery boiled potatoes as a meal, or it is ideal accompanied with an antipasto platter of cheese, olives, capers and breads.