I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve become addicted to fennel. In my defence, I am genetically pre-disposed to the stuff and I suspect that my mother has an even bigger soft spot for it. I love the texture, the sweetness and its grown up aniseed flavour. Whether it’s grilled, cured, pureed or raw, it never fails to add an elegant extra dimension to any dish. As a result there is normally a fennel bulb standing on duty in my fridge waiting to be called into action.
I opened up my trusty Flavour Thesaurus and flicked straight to the “Anise” section. In the introduction Nicki Segnit claims that anise gets on “famously with seafood” which triggered a memory of Heston Blumenthal’s salmon with liquorice gel and also of a stunning fish soup with a fennel backnote that Cowie and I had on a remote Swedish island. Nicki speculates that the sweetness and refreshing quality of fennel makes it the perfect foil for a fatty fish such as salmon. So I thawed a salmon fillet before work and played with the idea of a fennel remoulade during my lunch break (having been inspired by this and this). But the idea of a rich mayonnaise base didn’t seem right, so I switched it to crème fraiche and added some capers for a spritz of salinity. Ingredients:
1 salmon fillet Olive oil Butter Salt and pepper 1 fennel bulb 2 tablespoons of crème fraiche 1 teaspoon of capers Handful of finely chopped parsley Juice of half a lemon 1 teaspoon of whole grain mustard 1 finely chopped shallot
Chop the fennel as finely as possible and discard the tough central spine and put in a non reactive bowl. Immediately cover in lemon juice. Add the chopped shallot, capers, and mustard and then add the crème fraiche. Stir so it is all coated and then place in the fridge whilst you cook the salmon.
You can sear, poach or grill the salmon depending on whether you trust your grill, have an issue with making the house smell of fish, like crispy skin or are on a diet. Given my love of crunchy skin and the temperamental nature of my grill I went for the frying option. It also helps that I live on my own! Sear the salmon, skin side down, in a hot pan for a few minutes until the skin is crispy. Turn the heat down and flip the salmon. Add a knob of butter and cook until its done to your preference.
Personally I like to dice with death by cooking it so the middle is only just warm and a vibrant sunset pink. But it’s up to you. You can either be brave and risk a dose of botulism or be a cowardly woos living a life punctuated by regret, greyness and never ending remorse.
Remove the fennel mixture from the fridge and add the chopped parsley and season to taste. You won’t need as much salt as you think because of the salinity of the capers.
I wolfed this down watching an old episode of Spooks with a glass of metallic Muscadet and went to bed looking forward to a second sitting for lunch at work, but with less wine! The salmon was juicy, rare and blessed with skin that was so crisp and salty that you could have persuaded a blind folded man that it was pork crackling, whilst the fennel remoulade was restrained, crunchy and healthy to boot. I imagine it would go very well with left over roast chicken, crab or would be great as part of a picnic instead of icky coleslaw. Further reading:
We still love to go on trips around the UK, staying in BnBs or camping in search of a good meal or two - hence, Around Britain with a Paunch. Quite often the trips have been prompted by Diana Henry's Gastro Pub Cookbook. Here's where we've been to: