The last few weeks I haven’t put much work into the few pots on my terrace that qualify as my urban terrace garden. Yet, it rewards me so! I had just thrown some fennel seeds from the spice jar into a grow-bag and they all sprouted into a small jungle of sorts. I knew I needed to thin it but was loathe to throw the thinning away. For the time being they looked pretty enough in a bouquet combined with the white and yellow flowers of the blooming brassicas.
Last week I chanced upon this simple recipe for preserving them indefinitely! All of us dry and store mint but some herbs, like coriander or even parsley, are delicate and seem to lose their fragrance once dried. Fennel seemed a stronger herb but I wanted to be sure it would hold up to drying.
After salivating on A&N’s spinach ravioli, I am also looking forward to cooking up a simple pasta with some fennel pesto as soon as I can decide what to use in place of pine nuts.
The next time you buy expensive fennel bulb for some fancy cooking, save the fronds as well. You can use them to replace dill in this recipe, in tomato soup, or to make this fennel salt. The recipe couldn’t be simpler.
Adapted from this recipe at Local Kitchen
Fennel fronds, rinse and blot dry, remove thick stalks
Zest of a lime or lemon
Salt (adjust quantity to taste, less salt for a more intense fennel flavour): a mix of fine and coarse.*
Preheat oven at max temperature for 5 minutes. Spread the prepared fennel fronds and the lime zest in a baking tray. Turn oven off and put the tray with the fennel fronds inside the oven. Leave to dry. Check after 15 minutes. If the fronds are not crumbly-dry, repeat the process.
Crush the dried fronds and lime zest in a pestle and mortar with a little bit of the fine salt. Adjust amount by feel and appearance. Add the coarse salt towards the end so that you retain most of the texture.
Use the salt as a rub for meats, chicken, or fish, or to make spicy Bloody Mary!
* You should be able to find Indian rock salt/sendha namak at your neighbourhood grocer. I used coarsely ground sea salt from natural salt mines of Rajasthan.
This is the season for preserving the winter bounty in all sorts of ways. In the last few weeks I have done a lot of that: made many kinds of pickles (I’ve lost count!), frozen cauliflower and peas for later use, made potato chips, and now this fennel-frond salt that is looking so pretty in the little glass bottles!
You can dry methi leaves in the oven the same way – they are great to lift up any curry, especially chicken curries, and are the only way to make methi pooris in summer! You can also dry methi in the microwave; my youngest sister, Sumedha, showed me how. Wash and pat dry methi (fenugreek greens). Air dry it for a day (optional step). Spread it on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on 60% power, first for 3 minutes, and then again for another 3-4 minutes or till you have leaves that crumble on crushing. Crush with a light hand and store for later use. See my big jar behind the fennel salt bottles!