It was a busy Saturday. I had fennel and beetroot in the cupboard. Two separate things, one might think, but according to the world that exists within my head, these two facts were very linked and could only be solved together.
In between normal Saturday food shopping and cleaning, we spent the day gardening, trying to bring some order to the overgrown former building site that our back yard had become. I garden more for edibility than for beauty so my main concern was to get the herbs potted and tended to, and to clear and prep the vegetable patch for all the goodness that awaited it. Though the rest of the garden is still not fit to have children running around in it, we have planted our 2 varieties of peas, our two types of lettuce, rhubarb (which takes 54 weeks to come a-cropping; no need to rush things), aubergines and cantaloupes, and purple sprouting broccoli has its patch laid out and is waiting to go in the ground.
And in the back of my mind were the fennel and beetroot. I felt they could come together in a salad, and a quick google search pointed me in the direction of combining them with lentils to make the salad complete. The fennel was from our organic vegetable delivery box, and the anisette smell from it was unlike any I've smelled from fennel before - it was fresh and strong and a fabulous perfume that tempted you to stand about and sniff the bulb until your nose lost sense of any smell that came before or after it.
I had to leave the salad to be finished by Mr A&N as I needed to soak my tired gardening body in the bath tub. Before coming back down the stairs, I noticed that the smell had changed from one of fennel to one of a very strong garlic - Mr A&N is never shy with the garlic, but this smell was quite something else. The salad was simple and refreshing (albeit garlicky), with the beetroot coloring everything its distinctive purple color - including my top, when I dropped some lentils down the front of it.
The salad we made was inspired by the one I found on RecipeZaar from Um Safia.
Beetroot and Fennel Salad
side dish for 4-6, or light meal for 2
- 2 beetroots, cleaned and trimmed
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1 fennel bulb, leaves trimmed and set aside
- 200g puy lentils
- (optional: 200g cheese such as feta or halloumi)
- For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 1 clove minced garlic
- chopped fennel leaves from fennel bulb
- Preheat the oven to 180oc.
- Coat the beetroot with the tablespoon of olive oil and bake in the oven for about an hour (or until tender).
- Cook the puy lentils in boiling water until tender (about 20 minutes). Drain, and set aside to cool.
- Allow to cool thoroughly (about 45 minutes), then peel and chop into cubes.
- Remove the fennel leaves, finely chop them, and set aside.
- Slice the fennel into thin pieces.
- Add the fennel, beetroot, and lentils together (and cheese too, if using it).
- Mix the ingredients for the dressing together, and add to the vegetables.