“Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses, A box where sweets compacted lie” - George Herbert
I have been attending a two-day workshop on occupational health and safety at work, organised by our Human Resources Department. I must say that it was well run and had very good presenters, making it quite agreeable to attend and all of the people present were engaged and participating well in the proceedings. Everyone learnt something and some of the topics raised some vigorous discussion. In the past, I have attended some very dry and dull such workshops which if nothing worse, tended to put attendees to sleep. So it was a good couple of sessions, but nevertheless quite exhausting and the work does tend to bank up back at the coalface.
This evening I came home a little earlier than usual and one good thing about daylight saving time is that it does not get dark until much later in the evening. I took the opportunity to do some work in the garden (gently and very cautiously as my back still aches somewhat) and breathe in some fresh air. The garden looks beautiful now, with most of our roses having started to bloom in earnest, and many of the mid-Spring flowers putting on quite a display. The fragrance of the grapefruit, lemon and orange blossoms was overwhelming, while the native frangipani contributed its own distinctive perfume to the air. The irises are gorgeous at the moment, and the stocks also give out their own heady aroma, as are the lilacs, the carnations and the robinias. Many of the summer annuals such as pansies, marigolds, violas, petunias, daisies and lobelias are now coming into wild bloom. It is a lovely time of the year.
As the weather gets warmer, a greater variety of fresh vegetables are coming into season and one can find them easily at the greengrocers. It’s wonderful to begin using them in seasonal recipes. Apparently, the greater the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in our diet, and the more seasonal their consumption is, then the more we lower our predisposition to gastrointestinal cancers. One thing that is seldom missing from our table is seasonal salads. This evening we had a delicious Florence fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. azoricum, also known by its Italian name finocchio) and apple salad.
Fennel is much like a delicately licorice-flavoured celery. Crisp and crunchy with a distinctive flavour when raw. The inflated leaf bases that form a bulb-like structure above ground are used. Choose large, firm, crisp fennel with creamy white bulbs and bright green fronds that still look fresh and are not wilted. Fennel will keep in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, but it’s best eaten fresh. Remove the fronds (reserving them for use as a herb or garnish) and discard the tough stalks, leaving the tender bulb-like structure to use. Trim a fairly thick slice from the root end and discard. Slice the bulb in half. Slice or chop as desired, or as specified in the recipe.
Fennel and Apple Salad
3 Fennel bulbs
2 small, fresh and crisp peeled and cored Granny Smith apples
A handful of chives
1/2 tsp finely chopped mixed herbs
A handful of chopped walnuts
1/2 cup of home-made mayonnaise
1/2 cup of olive oil vinaigrette
1/2 tbsp mustard powder
- Grate finely the fennel and apples, placing them in a colander over a bowl.
- Press the fluid out of the fennel and apples, discard the fluid.
- Place the drained grated fennel and apples in a salad bowl and mix well, fluffing up
- Add the chives, mixed herbs and mix in well.
- Place the mayonnaise in a small bowl, add the salt, pepper and mustard and mix well. Add the vinaigrette little by little until incorporated into the mayonnaise, to form a smooth dressing.
- Pour dressing over the salad and mix well. Some more mayonnaise may be added if the salad looks a little dry.
- Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the top and garnish with a couple of fennel fronds.