I never liked fennel until I ate it raw in Italy. It’s Sicilian in origin and you can use blood oranges when in season, for both taste and colour. You can replace the fennel with peeled, thinly sliced raw beetroot for an equally delicious salad.
2 fennel bulbs, about 600 g, washed and dried
2 large oranges
20 g raisins (optional)
1 tsp cider vinegar
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
25 g pine nuts, toasted (see below)
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds salt
Trim the fennel, discarding the bases, cores and any tough outer layers. Cut the tops off and reserve, along with any feathery fronds. Cut the fennel in half from top to bottom and place flat side down on a chopping board. Using a sharp knife (or a mandolin), slice the fennel as thinly as possible. Transfer to a bowl of iced water and set aside until ready to serve. This will prevent browning and make it crisper.
Squeeze one orange and place the juice in a bowl. Add the raisins and leave to soak for at least 10 minutes. If you’re not using raisins, keep the juice for the dressing.
Peel the other orange and cut into thin slices. (You can remove the pith, but remember that it is good for you.) Set aside.
Remove the raisins from the orange juice and set aside. Add a pinch of salt and the vinegar to the juice, then gradually whisk in the olive oil.
Place the fennel in a salad bowl with the chopped tops and fronds, orange slices, soaked raisins, toasted pine nuts and the pumpkin seeds. Add the dressing, toss gently and serve.
To toast nuts: scatter on a baking sheet and toast in a 140°C oven for 3-4 minutes until golden and aromatic.