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I had deep-fried crispy fennel in a salad recently in The Damson Diner and it was a revelation. A whole new way to approach fennel! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t of it before………

In general I’m a big fan of the contrast of salad against crispy veg. Those of you with artichokes this week  can enjoy the simple pleasure of slicing the hearts, coating them in egg and breadcrumbs then frying them til golden. Delicious. With lemon juice this is beer food par excellence (never hurts to set the bar high) but on a bed of leaves dressed in lemon juice and a scant drizzle of your finest olive oil you have a gorgeous first course. Add some parma ham, or a fine sheep’s cheese and it’s a lunch. Yum!

Back to the fennel. It’s the same principal really. Marc’s gorgeous  leaves balance the crispiness of the fennel. Some toasted pumpkin seeds and crumbled goat’s cheese complete the dish. Then it’s a dressing of olive oil and lemon plus a generous drizzle of pomegranate molasses. To add some extra interest I added a little hot smoked paprika to the flour I dredged the fennel in. This creates a nice smokiness which finishes things off nicely.

A salad of mixed Wicklow leaves, goat’s cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds topped with crispy fennel  and hot smoked paprika (for 2)

You’ll need:

2 handful of mixed leaves (or any other leaves you like)

1 medium fennel bulb

120gr soft goat’s cheese

A handful pumpkin seeds

2 tablepoon self raising flour

1 level teaspoon hot smoked paprika

Vegetable oil for frying

Olive Oil

The juice of 1 lemon

Pomegranate molasses

Wash and dry the salad leaves and set aside. Toast the pumpkin seeds and them aside aswell. Trim the fennel, then, using either a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice it finely (the thickness of a credit card would be about right). Mix the flour with the paprika along with a pinch of fine salt. Dredge the fennel in the flour taking care to dust off any excess. Heat about 2 cm oil in a pan and when hot but not smoking, add the fennel and fry til golden. This should take about 2 minutes so if the fennel starts changing really colour quickly turn down the heat a little.

To finish the salad, toss the leaves with the seeds. Crumble in the goat’s cheese. Dress with olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. Taste and add more lemon if needed. Drizzle with some pomegranate  molasses then top with the crispy fennel.

Serve immediately.