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WanderSups: Serving the perfect late-summer salad

“As with anything that hasn’t racked up the food miles, the taste is so much more intense. . .” Growing your own takes this recipe to the next level, says Velvet’s resident recipe writer, Hannah Gregory

Hannah Gregory's hot tenderstem, burrata, almond and fennel salad (58262105)
Hannah Gregory's hot tenderstem, burrata, almond and fennel salad (58262105)

I have been on the fence as to whether to pen this recipe or not. One reason being that it is not so much a recipe, but more an amalgamation of really delicious ingredients; the other being

that it calls for bronze fennel, which doesn’t exactly litter the veg aisles of our supermarkets.

But then, as I decided another day’s reading was needed to help me think of what I could submit instead, I picked up my current book, Jay Rayner’s Last Supper, and happened to stumble upon the chapter where he visits Yotam Ottolenghi in order to perfect the ultimate salad.

Jay mentions that Ottolenghi came under recurrent criticism when he bounced onto the scene as his recipes were too complex and called for ingredients that people haven’t heard of, let alone are able to find. Ottolenghi’s response? “Why shouldn’t good food take effort? It seems a particularly British thing to expect the good stuff to come easy.” I couldn’t agree with this sentiment more.

Yes, of course, there is a requirement for an easy midweek meal, I am not suggesting there isn’t, but when we are cooking for our friends and family and coming together in celebration, shouldn’t that celebration extend to the produce we put on our plates? Doesn’t it taste that little bit sweeter when you have grown and harvested the goods yourself?

I for one get a little giddy when I see an unknown ingredient in a recipe and then begin the research portion of the prep - what is it? Where does it come from? How do I get my mitts on it? And then, when those mitts finally are on it, the sweet, sweet elation of having another member of the team join the party and consequently opening up a whole new world of cooking.

It is this obsessive behaviour that has led me to host a variety of Mexican plants in my Suffolk garden - I know we’re not meant to praise this summer’s heatwave, given the end of the world and everything, but my lord my tomatillos are loving it - and along with my Mexican friends sits a big, fluffy bush of bronze fennel, his dill-like fronds giving a comforting stroke every time I go and see which chillies are still hanging in there.

Bronze fennel can be planted in herb gardens (it can get to 2m tall, so maybe not a window-box job) or ornamental borders. It not only tastes great but looks fantastic and if I can keep it alive, anyone can. Its flavour rofile is very similar to that of the bulb fennel we are more familiar with but, as with anything that hasn’t racked up the food miles, the taste is so much more intense. A punchy hit of aniseed that makes you suck your cheeks in and instantly transports you back to school days of sucking those dark red aniseed balls.

It works beautifully with white fish, especially roasted, can be tossed through salads or, as in this recipe, used as a garnish to elevate a dish from a 10 to an 11. Of course, you could sub it with the fronds of a fennel bulb if you absolutely had to but please, where is the fun in that?

I love to serve this dish as a side at a barbecue, late-summer weather willing, but it would also make a fantastic lunch or light supper served with crusty bread to spread that oozy cheese on.

Tenderstem, Burrata, Almond & Bronze Fennel

Serves 4 (generously)

What you need:

● 2 x balls of burrata

● 500g of tenderstem / purple sprouting broccoli

● Handful of bronze fennel fronds

● Handful of blanched almonds

● Good extra virgin olive oil

● Salt and peps

How you do it :

1. Toss your broccoli in the EVOO and season generously with salt and pepper.

2. Make sure your barbecue is hot and place the spears directly on the bars of the grill. Keep it moving for a couple of minutes until cooked - you want the fluffy heads to be charred and the stems to have a bite. You can also do this on a griddle pan and hob.

3. Remove from the barbecue and let cool slightly.

4. Pop a cast iron onto the barbecue bars (or hob) and toast your almonds till brown. Remove from the heat making sure they don’t get scorched.

5. Place the broccoli on a large platter.

6. Drain the burrata and tear open the balls so you have two halves, place these on top of the broccoli.

7. Sprinkle over the toasted almonds.

8. Drape over the fronds of fennel and finish with a good glug of EVOO and a crack of salt and pepper.

A former BBC MasterChef quarter finalist, Hannah hosts WanderSups supper clubs, “serving meals created with love, inspired by journeys around the world, dished up on home turf”. Her ethos is simple - have fun, enjoy it, make it an occasion. To find out more follow @WanderSups or visit wandersups.com.

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