A good cookery book must have reliable, clearly explained recipes, but, as I realised some time ago, I consider it excellent only when it inspires me, stirs my imagination and broadens my horizons. If, after leafing through its pages I decide to buy a vegetable/fruit/fish for the first time or cook a new meat cut or use a well known ingredient in an original way, it means my library has been enriched by a new jewel. Such was the case with Smashing Plates: Greek Flavours Redefined by Maria Elia, which, apart from being beautifully written and full of imaginative dishes with Greek and Cypriot roots, has convinced me to use fennel in my kitchen. This, believe me, is quite an achievement.
This salad, which is a modified version of Maria Elia’s Ouzo, Celeriac and Fennel Remoulade (and which could also be called slaw, I suppose), turned out simply excellent. The crunchiness and subtle freshness of fennel made me forget its overcooked, mushy form I had a “pleasure” to taste several times. The surprising presence of ouzo (Greek anis-flavoured alcohol), which gives this salad a sophisticated touch, has opened my eyes to a whole new world of boozy dressings and sauces. One more reason to love Maria Elia’s book. (You can use another similar anis flavoured alcohol (see the tips below).) In short, it was a perfect winter salad and and a very pleasant rediscovery of the fennel.
If you have never had Celeriac Remoulade, the French basis of this salad, you should try it. It might change your opinion about celeriac (it did mine):
or try my Japanese take on this French classic with daikon (white radish) used instead of celeriac:
TIPS: Carrot’s presence is my own invention (I simply didn’t have enough celeriac…), so you can use only celeriac.
If you don’t have ouzo, use French pastis or another anis seed – flavoured alcohol (though pastis for example might be a bit stronger than ouzo).
If you don’t want anis flavours to be too strong, skip the fennel seeds.
If you cannot find fresh dill, use for example fresh tarragon. Dried herbs are not suitable for this salad, in my opinion.
Preparation: 15-20 minutes
Ingredients (serves 2 as a side dish):
1 medium fennel bulb
1/2 small celeriac, peeled
1 medium carrot
1 – 2 teaspoons crushed fennel seeds (I used fennel “tea” bags)
2 heaped tablespoons mayonnaise (homemade or good quality product, not the snow-white tasteless stuff)
1 tablespoon ouzo
a bit of lemon juice
Combine the mayonnaise with ouzo. Put aside.
Grate the carrot and the celeriac with a vegetable grater or julienne them.
Slice the fennel bulb finely or grate with a vegetable grater.
Combine the vegetables with the mayonnaise.
Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice, fennel seeds and dill.