A couple of years ago I became obsessed with this fennel, radish and lemon salad and seriously I make it all the time in summer. It’s so fresh and crunchy, and I love to eat it with fish or chicken and pile it onto my sandwiches for lunch. I was late getting to the stage of really liking fennel. It was always to aniseedy for me, but when I got over that, I embraced this crunchy and liquorice flavour packed vegetable with gusto. When shaved into very thin slices with radish, the flavour somehow mellows with the lemon and olive oil. I didn’t think this salad could get any better until I spotted this recipe for fennel, radish and mint with ricotta in Polpo, one of my all-time favourite cookbooks.
It’s essentially the same salad as my fave version except mint is added and served on a base of ricotta. I am passionate about ricotta, and combined with lemon, basil and chilli baked in a simple dish is sublime, so this salad made total sense to me. Ricotta is a delicious neutral fresh dairy base which creates a lovely texture and creamy flavour to pair with the salad, making it a little more substantial. Spread the ricotta on a slice of toast with the salad on top of that is also a fantastic way to eat it.
I don’t know what possessed me to make a salad on the coldest day of the year so far (yesterday) and the day that winter arrived in Cape Town with full force and a hurricane, but I think my body was craving something raw and light in amongst all the comfort eating.
I realised as I set about making this that I hadn’t bought any mint and there was NO way I was heading to the shops in yesterday’s storm, so I replaced it with basil. It’s part of the same herb family so it worked really well too.
* In terms of quantities, I’m going to include the recipe, as it is in the book, and my scaled down version. I used 250gms ricotta. This is the standard size you buy it in here in SA. I used one large bulb of fennel vs two that the book specifies but with no idea of size. I used about the same quantity of radish, and you can use basil or mint, it doesn’t really matter. Reserve a few of the fennel leaves to chop into the salad too.
**Polpo is an award winning restaurant group in London and one of my favourite places to eat when I visit. You can’t book, so just arrive early and eat as much as you possibly can.
Fennel, radish & mint salad recipe with ricotta – adapted from Polpo
Serves 4 – 6
- 250gms / 1 cup ricotta (400gms in the book)
- sea salt and black pepper
- +-50ml olive oil (100ml in the book)
- 1 large fennel bulb (2 in the book but doesn’t state size)
- 150gms / about ¾ cup radish (same in book – or 12 breakfast radishes)
- 1 small handful mint/basil
- Juice of one lemon
Season the ricotta with salt and pepper and add a drizzle of olive oil. Spread some on each serving plates for individual servings, or spread on the bottom of a larger platter.
Using a mandolin or the slicer on a food processor, slice the fennel and radish as finely as possible into a bowl. It is very important to get them really fine. Add the chopped mint/basil, olive oil and lemon juice. Season well with salt and pepper and toss lightly to combine. Be careful not to over toss this as the liquid from the vegetables escapes very easily. Pile on top of the ricotta on the plates/platter and eat immediately.
A few other awesome salads inspired by Polpo:
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