Pick of the week: Fennel blossom and pollen
Don’t walk past that fennel you see growing wild in your garden or on the roadside … it’s even more useful in the kitchen than you might realise. Sure the fronds are wonderful to bring a mild aniseed flavour to vegetable and fish dishes, to soups and eggs, but it’s the lacy yellow flowers, along with their dried pollen, that have foragers-in-the-know and restaurateurs worldwide waxing lyrical. We spotted packets of the fresh blossoms, along with packets of flowering thyme, at Farro Fresh last week, two crops from Pukekohe artisan growers, Mission Cabana. Add the fresh blossoms with other whole herbs to pickles, sauces, dressings and in flavoured vinegars. Or sprinkle them over salads. For the more adventurous, try baking them in bread or stir through fresh pasta.
Mission Cabana even has a fennel blossom icecream (no machine required) on its website.
And now for the pollen. In summer it could be fun (and impressive) to have a go at harvesting your own but unless you’ve got fennel growing in abundance, don’t expect buckets of the stuff. Pick whole flowers and place them in a bag where, as they dry, you can shake the pollen free. (Fresh pollen is more intense than dried.) If drying your own is a no-go, you can now find hand-harvested Californian fennel pollen in wee bottles on the spice shelf at Farro’s Grey Lynn store. Slightly sweet, it tastes of freshly mown grass with aniseed brightness.
Move over saffron! Here’s how Farro recommends using fennel pollen• Sprinkle 1 Tbsp over a roast chicken before it goes into the oven.
• Add to ricotta and use to stuff tortellini or, better still, zucchini flowers.
• Mix it with pepper and salt for an amazing bright and zesty sprinkle.
• Sprinkle a little over cooked roast pork.
• Sprinkle over steamed salmon.
• Mix with toasted pinenuts and cumin as a dukkah to sprinkle over meats, salads and seafood.
• Sprinkle over homemade breads just before they go into the oven.
• Mix through a pork-rich meat mix and stuff into a chicken or make your own sausages.
• Add to biscuit dough.
• Add to your pasta dough before you roll it.
• Shred leftover cooked chicken and add a good sprinkle of pollen before you add any grains, seeds or leaves.
Also use fennel sticks or stalks and peel them to use in spa water (refresh every day) with peach slices, cinnamon stick. Also add fennel stick peels to lemon and bitters, or vodka.