How do I prepare fennel for Nigella's Greek salad? Which part do I use? I’ve never used it. Do I peel it first or just wash and cut? And how much would I use for 6-8 people?
NIgella's Greek Salad, My Way (from NIGELLA SUMMER) is a slight variation on a traditional Greek salad as the cucumber is replaced with fennel. Fennel bulbs (sometimes called Florence Fennel) is a wonderfully versatile ingredient as it has an aniseed crunch when raw, but this mellows to a soft sweetness when it is cooked. Nigella's recipe suggests one fennel bulb for 6-8 people, but fennel bulbs can vary a lot in size so use a large bulb, or two smaller bulbs if you can't find a large one.
Fennel bulbs are usually sold whole, with a little of the stalks still attached and, if you are lucky, some fennel fronds. To prepare the fennel, first slice the stalks and fronds away from the top. Use the fronds to sprinkle over the salad before serving. Give the bulb a wash with cold water, dry it and lie the bulb on one of its wider sides. Carefully slice it in half from the top (where the stalks were) to the base. The outer layer of the fennel may be too tough to eat easily and if it is, peel it away and save it for the stock pot. Sit the two halves cut side down and slice the fennel crossways, to give small crescent-shaped pieces. As you get towards the base there is a more solid section, but this can be sliced and eaten as well. Fennel tends to turn brown quickly once it has been cut; it is fine to eat but visually not as attractive, so use the fennel immediately, if possible. You can transfer the slices to a bowl of cold water that has 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice added and this will help to keep the slices white, but you will need to drain the fennel and pat it dry before using it.