This tangle of lightly and simply dressed fennel shavings is my go-to side for almost any white fish dish. I can’t think of many better meals than a whole roast or barbecued turbot served simply with this salad and perhaps a few chunks of good bread to mop things up. That said, the anise flavours suit plenty of other seafood and meat mains too, whether that’s a skate wing drowning in brown butter, poached salmon or chicken or rich, sizzling lamb chops.
It takes just a few minutes to put together, and somehow manages to be cooling and invigorating as well as comforting, and a surprisingly good carrier of warm cooking juices. If it becomes a staple for you too, a cute variation is to swap the lemon juice for the same quantity of orange and a little finely grated zest.
The recipe includes the process of plunging just-shaved fennel into iced water for 15–30 minutes. This has the double benefit of ‘shocking’ the fennel so it curls and is super crunchy, and prevents it from oxidising. But it’s not essential, so skip it if you’ve only got 5 minutes.
- Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- 400 g fennel
- ½ lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Leaves from 8–10 stems tarragon, roughly chopped
- Sea salt
- Fill a large bowl three-quarters full with cold water and add a pinch of salt and a handful of ice cubes. Cut the top stems of the fennel off, reserving any herby fronds. Neatly trim any brown or tired-looking bits from the base of the bulb, but ensure the bulb stays in one piece.
- Use a mandolin slicer to shave the fennel to almost paper-thin lengths from root to tip. It takes only a few seconds; just make sure you use the guard for the last few centimetres. Drop the fennel shavings into the iced water and leave for 15 minutes to curl and crisp.
- Drain the fennel and pat it dry with a clean tea towel. Put it back in the bowl along with the lemon juice, oil, a generous pinch of salt, the tarragon and any reserved fennel fronds. Mix and serve within 10 minutes, so that the fennel is still crunchy.