Seafood, Fennel and Lime Salad

This is a straight up Ottolenghi recipe that I’ve followed almost to the letter. More herbs more lime more prawns. But it’s *basically* to the letter. It’s not often I follow a recipe so closely, but it’s so reliant on fresh flavours that you really can’t go wrong. I cooked this for a friend recently and had to buy clean and prepare baby squid for the first time. Exciting stuff. I’ve adjusted it so it’s a starter that feeds 2. Oh! And before I go into a bit of a rant. Get proper big and raw tiger prawns. And by tiger prawns, I mean proper prawns, not pre cooked tiny little shrimps. There is a big difference between prawns and shrimp. The end.

Seafood, Fennel and Lime Salad:
1 small fennel bulb - thinly sliced
1/2 a small red onion - thinly sliced
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 garlic clove - crushed
1 tbsp fresh dill - chopped
1 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley - chopped
1 mild chilli - de-seeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
6 tiger prawns, peeled and de-veined
170 g cleaned baby squid
1 tbsp sumac
2 tbsp chopped coriander
Sea salt
Pomegranate seeds to garnish

Top and tail the fennel and slice it widthwise super thinly through a mandolin into a large bowl. Thinly slice your red onion and toss them in. Whack in the lime zest, juice, garlic, parsley, chilli, one tablespoon of olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Mix it all up. Set aside.

Get a griddle pan on the stove and get it smoking hot. Mix the prawns and squid in a bowl with the other tablespoon of oil and a pitch of salt. Grill these in small batches and turn them over once. The squid should take 1-2 mins each side and the prawns 2-3 mins. You want the nice grill lines so don’t move them around in the pan.

Once they’re done, slice up the squid and toss the seafood in with your salad. You can serve this warm or a leave it in the fridge for up to 1 day. When serving, sprinkle over your sumac and coriander, taste, adjust seasoning, maybe squeeze more lime, and liberally garnish with the pomegranate seeds. EAT.

Incidentally, cleaning squid is quite fun. Carefully pull out the tentacles. Chop off the eyes and beak. Remove the flat soft bone from the hood(?) and rinse out any bits inside that. I found sacks of eggs in a couple of mine. This made me fleetingly sad for a moment, before I remembered how tasty grilled squid was.

squid prep

Orange Infused Braised Fennel

Some fennel arrived in my veg box this week, and I was left in a bit of a quandary. Since the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations this year, where I suffered a particularly bad Sambuca related incident, I have been unable to come within 10 feet of the stuff without gagging and likewise with anything resembling the aniseed tipple. Cue the mild consternation at my veg box opening. Can I even prepare the veg without feeling nauseous? How would I serve the fennel without strange Queeny related flashbacks?  The answer is braised. Braised in an orangy saucy gravy.

The original recipe actually required Sambuca, Pastise, Ouzo or any other aniseed flavored booze. Um. I really had to substitute this for Cointreau, and I would highly recommend any fellow Sambuca Sufferers to follow suit.

Braised Fennel Ingredients:
1 large fennel bulb
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp Cointreau
1/4 cup veg stock
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp fennel fronds
Zest of half an orange
1 tbsp orange juice

Trim the top off your fennel bulb, remove the fronds and lightly chop them up and set aside. You want to divide your bulb into 8, pieces. Keep them attached to the core so they don’t fall apart when you’re cooking.

Set a wide enough sauté pan on the hob where you’ll be able to brown each piece of fennel in one layer. Set it to medium high heat and melt your butter. Bring the heat down a bit and lay all you fennel bits in. Nicely brown one side. This should take around 4 mins. Sprinkle over the salt and sugar for caramelization. Turn to brown the other side.

Once evenly browned. Increase the heat and add your alcohol. This should quickly boil down. When it’s almost entirely evaporated, add the stock and water. Once this liquid starts boiling, bring the heat down low. Cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes. While this is simmering grate your orange zest – set aside.

15 minutes up? Remove that lid and let the sauce boil down to a glaze. Add a pinch of the fronds and the half the zest. Gently combine.

Plate up. Brush the saucy gravy goodness on the fennel. Sprinkle with the rest of the fronds and zest. Squeeze over with the orange. Done.

I can report that I ate the lot. It’s delicious. I even managed to share some with a friend with similar aniseed aversions and they didn’t gag either. So, a win in my books methinks.

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