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lemon, fennel and halloumi

i continue to be smitten by anna hansen’s lemon, fennel and halloumi combination, which she serves as a bruschetta and which i’ve been adapting in various ways – potatoes in place of the bread, pasta and fresh ricotta plus plenty of basil and now a straight swap of pasta for bread.

this is a real favourite at the moment - recently i’ve made it a couple of times in as many weeks and already have my eye to a third time.

the adaptations are simple – i cut the fennel into slightly smaller pieces but then roast this, on a sheet of greaseproof paper and under foil, with the sliced lemon zest, lemon juice, fennel seeds, olive oil and ground pepper plus cubes of halloumi (i don’t bother soaking these overnight beforehand, as the original recipe calls for, as the textural difference is minimal). after 15 minutes at 180c the foil is removed and everything returned for another 10-15 minutes to allow the cheese and fennel to develop slightly crispy/caramelised edges.

to pull the dish together i toss the cooked pasta (make sure you put this on so it’s ready about the same time as the fennel and cheese - i ended up with overly-toasted cheese when i got distracted and started the pasta late) with a little cream or soft cheese, just to moisten everything, before adding the fennel and halloumi mix. sometimes i add a handful of peas or bread beans as well and the garnish of crispy capers is well worth making the effort for.

parmesan when serving adds extra richness although you won’t really need it – the melting creaminess of the halloumi, with the ever-magical combination of lemon and fennel should be enough to win you over.


almost mitch martini

when i’m thinking about the ingredients that are almost guaranteed to make a cocktail taste delicious, apricot brand is right up at the top of my list, as is fresh passion fruit. this take on a mitch martini (which uses peach liqueur in place of the apricot brandy and passion fruit syrup instead of the fresh fruit) ticks both boxes and is very lovely as a result.

shake, with ice, 1 ½ shot vodka, 1 ½ shot pressed/cloudy apple juice, the flesh of ½ a ripe passion fruit, ¼ shot of apricot brandy and ½ shot of lemon juice. strain into a martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon zest.


ziti with roasted fennel, lemon and basil

i continue to be inspired by anna hansen’s lemon, fennel and halloumi bruschetta – i’ve already used it as the basis for a salad, using potatoes in place of the bread, and now i’m swapping in pasta, instead.

i also decided to use a different cheese –fresh ricotta. this obviously didn’t need cooking so i followed the original recipe, just omitting the halloumi from the roasting tray. when it was ready i added my cooked ziti, some ricotta, purple and green basil plus a scattering of fresh fennel leaves from the garden.

it was delicious and i’ll definitely make this again – you do need quite large pasta shapes though, given the size of the fennel pieces; conchiglioni rigati would also work well. i think olives would be a good addition and will no doubt also try it with different cheeses – feta or goat’s cheese would both be nice.


fennel and burrata salad


fennel and burrata is a combination i’ve made before, usually combining them with orange or grapefruit segments, toasted coriander seeds and watercress plus a drizzle of really nice fruity olive oil. this is based on a dish from yotam ottolenghi’s nopi restaurant and was an obsession of mine a few years ago.

this version was different, using lemon in place of the orange - just finely cut strips of zest and some juice which combines with the olive oil (again, choose something nice and fruity) to make a dressing for the thinly sliced fennel - plus mint, (purple) basil and some fennel leaves from the garden. it is much fresher tasting and definitely something i will alternate with nopi version.

i served it with some savoury muffins, flavoured with courgette, sundried tomato and cheese (feta and parmesan), that i had made to use up a few leftovers.


elderflower and almond cake

i’m a sucker for cakes which have ground nuts as the main ingredient rather than flour – two of my favourites are nigel slater’s pistachio and orange cake with lemon rosewater icing and diana henry’s rose-drenched lime and yoghurt cake.

i love the slightly dense moist texture of these cakes as well as the way that you can load them with fragrant syrups so the flavours really sing. the way that the nuts carry the citrus and floral flavours is also something special.

this version with lemon, elderflower and almonds is very similar to the two mentioned above and just as good - i expect i’ll make time and again. the icing is something new though – both rich and light it’s a nice way to add an extra layer of elderflower flavour. and it looks ever so pretty when sprinkled with pistachios and rose petals.

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