Fennel and blood orange salad with toasted pistachios



“You can’t go swimming for at least an hour after lunch, otherwise you’ll get cramp and drown!”

“While you are living under my roof, you’ll abide by my rules.”

“You’re going out wearing that?  You’ll catch your death of cold!”

“I didn’t ask you how it got there, I asked you to pick it up.”

“If you don’t finish your vegetables, you can’t have dessert”.

“If God had intended us to have holes in our ears, he would have put them there.”

Aaah, mothers.  You have to love them.  It seems that generations tick over, fashions come and go, science progresses… and yet mothers are still dishing out the same phrases that they did a decade, or two, or five ago.  From bizarre old-wives tales like the famous instant cramp if you entered a swimming pool with as much as an undigested pea in your tummy; to the phrases that brook no argument, it seems that generations of mothers have always and will continue to recycle the same set of motherly wisdom, rules and values to successive generations of their offspring.  Kind of comforting, isn’t it?




One of my mother’s favourites was:  “I don’t care if all your friends are doing it – it they jumped off a cliff would you jump after them?”.  My mom hauled this one out for every occasion, from the probably appropriate (why I could not get in a car and go on a date with an 18-year old bot they did not know) to the totally ludicrous (why at age 14 I could not go to the movies without parental supervision!).  She was not interested in my arguments that all my friends went to the movies without their parents and to date, none of them had actually been attacked in the back row by a sociopath in the sleepy seaside city where I grew up.  The wisdom of the crowd simply held no persuasion for her, and it frustrated me no end.



These days, of course, I get to make my own decisions on whether to follow the crowd or strike out on my own.  And it’s fair to say that in many aspects of my life, I haven’t really followed the path that people might have expected.  Nobody guessed I would leave my beloved hometown and move to London.  Nobody thought I’d run off on a Friday afternoon and get married in a registry, almost 18 months before my “official” white frocked wedding.  And nobody thought a lifelong exercise-avoider would, at age 37, decide to learn to ski.  But there are some things in life where it is sensible to follow the crowd and tread the well-trodden path.  There is a reason why everybody serves tomatoes with basil and mozzarella; or lamb with rosemary; or apples with cinnamon – these are combinations that have been proved over and over again to simply work.  And I always say that there is no sense in reinventing the wheel:  if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


Fennel BloodOrangeOverhead


And that’s all the apology you’re going to get from me for posting something today that you have probably seen in some form or another on a number of other blogs.  Blood oranges are hot news at the moment – and with good reason.  Not only are they mesmerizingly beautiful, with their seemingly random arrangement of cells, shaded from hot orange to blood red, but their season is also heartbreakingly brief.  I seldom get to see them in supermarkets here in London, but a couple of weeks ago I was thrilled to find them in our local Sainsbury’s.  And before I’d even left the produce section I knew what they would become:  blood orange and fennel salad.  There’s not much I can say about it, other than that the combination of crisp, faintly aniseedy fennel and sweet, juicy blood oranges is quite sublime and a classic combination with good reason. The addition of a good homemade vinaigrette dressing and toasted pistachios creates a plate of taste and colour that’s hard to beat.

Fennel BloodOrangeFinal



1 large bulb of fennel
2 blood oranges
a handful of pistachios, shelled


1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp runny honey
Salt and black pepper


Wash and dry the fennel bulb.  Slice off the stalk and any fronds and reserve the fronds for garnish.  Slice in half from top to bottom, then place each half cut side down on a chopping board and slice thinly lengthwise.

Carefully peel the blood orange, removing as much of the white pith as possible, then segment it.  If it is firm, you could simply remove the membrane around each segment with your fingers.  If the segments are as ripe and juicy as mine, use a very sharp knife to cut in between the membrane and the segments, then remove the segment from the membrane and slice the pith off the rounded end of the segment.

Place the pistachios in a small non-stick frying pan and toast over medium heat, tossing occasionally. Then they are beginning to brown and smel toasty, they are done.  Watch them closely as they can burn easily!

Mix the salad dressing ingredients in a glass bottle with a lid and shake vigorously till everything is blended.  Toss the fennel, orange segments and dressing together in a bowl, sprinkle with the pistachios, garnish with small pieces of the reserved fennel fronds and serve immediately.

Note: The dressing recipe will make more than you need – store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.


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  1. says

    I love fennel and orange salad – it used to be one of the most beautiful salads I made in my Italy walking holiday picnic making days and I remember the taste of those blood oranges now. Why do we hardly ever see them here in SA? Surely they grow here too?

  2. says

    Can’t say I’ve hever heard of this salad. I have heard all the motherly sayings though and we will be using them all very soon as well.

  3. says

    This salad is not familiar, is it your original recipe. It looks delicious specially for the vegetarian. It is not like an ordinary salad because the dressing will need to store in fridge for up to a week.

  4. says

    Well, now I know I will have to get to the store to get the ingredients for this recipe. Because my friends are coming over this weekend so I have to make this recipe for them. Thanks soo much for this recipe! :-)

  5. says

    I wish I could find blood oranges here in South Africa, but they never seem to be available in any of our major supermarkets. I tried this recipe with 2 large naartjies (Mandarin for all you folks who are not acquainted with naartjies – It’s a South African thing!), and it was utterly delicious!
    I also added natural “Fynbos”-honey to my dressing – I be you’re green with envy, hey Jeanne?! (Hehe!) For some added nostalgia – My mother use to say: “Kom verby – Ek het klaar gepraat, Kind!”
    Love the blog! :)

  6. says

    I remember so many funny sayings of my mum’s. I so wish she was still here, to keep on saying them! I’m sure you do too.
    The salad looks delicious and I love the addition of pistachios – a great idea.

  7. says

    I have never eaten or even seen blood oranges – I don’t think they are available in SA! I made a fennel and orange salad a couple of weeks ago and the combination was delicious!

  8. says

    I would love to try this salad, but I’m having a dickens of a time finding fennel here in Australia. Methinks I’ll have to knuckle down and plant my own. :-) Isn’t it a glorious thing to make our own decisions about our lives? I arrived at that place rather late in life, but I treasure it immensely. :-)

  9. says

    What a beautiful salad! This would be lovely as a side to our Easter ham. You hit the nail on the head with all of those motherly sayings…unfortunately, I find myself spouting out the same phrases that I once cringed at.

  10. Jeri says

    Writing in from NYC: I don’t know if you have the equivalent in the UK, but Vidalia onions (a super sweet onion from Georgia, USA) just a little, shaved paper thin to garnish and some curls of Parmaggiano Reggiano. There’s about a two-week window when, if you go to enough stores, you can get them all at once. But it’s totally worth it, especially if you cut up the oranges over a bowl and save all the extra juice for the dressing. Now I just need to find the oranges!

  11. says

    Looks like your mum and mine had very similar sayings..;) My folks were pretty strict too up till the point where it drove me insane. My dad always managed to show up at school parties to pick me up and embarras me totally by going into the room and walk up to me… O well, parents! Blood oranges are indeed hard to find here too unfortunately but I would love to make this gorgeous salad!

  12. says

    Fennel and orange….such a classic combo and one that I adore. I love blood oranges but can never find them here in the back woods. So wish we could have them here. I am excited for winter because my beloved citrus will soon be in store again. I do believe your mother knew you extremely well. I so know all those motherly utterances…from my mom and believe it or not when I became a mom they became my stock sayings as well :) Love you and it was so, so wonderful to see you and spend good quality time with you here in Cape Town. Thank you xxx

  13. says

    I love the tangy flavors of citrus perking the lovely anis flavor of fennel. The perfect refreshing salad with a classic combination!
    “I don’t care if all your friends are doing it – it they jumped off a cliff would you jump after them?” may I just say … BORG. My mum repeated that same line and truth be told – now that i am a mum I think I am saying the same thing. LOL!