This salad of fennel, orange and olives with harissa packs a punch with its chilli dressing. It can be eaten as a side dish to fish or sprinkled with feta and served with bread and houmous for a lighter main.
This simple fennel, orange and olive salad recipe is inspired by a dish I sampled recently at an ‘inventive Middle Eastern’ and extremely stylish restaurant Coal Office in London’s Kings Cross, Granary Square.
My friend and I hadn’t actually planned to visit Coal Office – wherever had room and would serve a Sunday brunch suitable for a hangover – was the list of requirements, but we were lured over by its smart appearance overlooking the Regents Canal on one side and Granary Square on the other. I spent the best part of 5 years working in an office not far from this spot, and I am still astonished just how much the area has changed for the better.
We ordered a couple of vegetable heavy dishes to balance out our slightly more indulgent selection of eggs Benedictus on brioche with meltingly soft pigs cheek. All the dishes were stunning and I quickly declared Coal Office as the best new restaurant I’d tried this year. For me personally it was the salads that were the star of the show and left the most lasting impression in terms of taste and presentation (gold bowls included) for such simple seasonal dishes.
As is often the case with modern restaurants recipes don’t have titles, but a list of ingredients. This was moroccan fennel salad – olives, almonds, harissa and orange.
I decided to recreate it, and so I waited and waited until a fennel appeared in my veg bag.
Last week, one arrived (along with a cucumber) and a leftover orange from a cooking class meant that fate was now delivering me the opportunity to work my magic on the list of ingredients and create my own version of the dish.
I know that oranges are not particularly seasonal this time of year, but there isn’t really anything that I can think of that is, and that would also deliver the sweet tang that they offer.
In my version of the dish I have subbed almonds for pine nuts, and I do love the crunchy addition that the cucumber offers. I’ve also made the most of the fledgling mint and its tiny purple flowers that live in a box outside my front door. If your mint supply is more plentiful, I most definitely recommend adding more in.
This is a versatile salad you can serve in very many ways. I think it be a lovely accompaniment to a summery baked whole sea bass or bream, but for a humble Monday lunch at home I added some crumbled feta, sourdough toast and a dollop of Israeli-style smoother than a baby’s bum houmous.
(As an aside I am desperate to work out how to make it myself. So far I have tried peeling the chickpeas, reheating tinned ones, cooking them with baking soda and using my professional blender, but alas that smooth texture eludes me. I suspect I need to up my tahini game. Until then, there’s Sabra).
Fennel, Orange and Olives with Harissa
- A reminder if you are stuck on supreming oranges, prepping fennel or cucumber, click on the links for my how to videos.
- I like to use a mandoline to get the fennel slices very thin which means they soften quicker. If you’re using a knife try and get them as thin as possible.
- You can make your own harissa paste, but it’s just as easy to buy a jar in most larger supermarkets these days.
- 1 fennel, thinly sliced with a knife or mandoline, reserve the fronds
- juice half lemon
- 1 small ridged cucumber, thinly sliced with a knife or mandoline,
- 2 orange, supremed or thinly sliced
- 1 tsp harissa paste mixed with 1 tsp olive oil
- Handful pitted green or black olives approx 50g
- handful mint, shredded
- Handful toasted pine nuts
- Salt and ground black pepper
- Place your sliced fennel in a medium sized bowl, squeeze over the lemon juice and add a pinch of salt. Toss all together and let the fennel sit in the juice for 10-15 minutes to soften up.
- Meanwhile prep all the rest of your ingredients.
- Toss the cucumber into the fennel, along with the orange segments and olives
- Mix together the harissa with the olive oil, then pour over the salad ingredients, toss everything together with your hands, to make sure the harissa covers all the ingredients.
- Add in the mint, reserved fennel fronds and season with black pepper
- Plate up and scatter over the pine nuts
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