A while ago I was sent a new ingredient, fennel pollen. Yep, you read that right, pollen. Just a small sachet of this was sent to me and when you open it the aroma is quite intense. I do love fennel but even I have been thinking “what the hell do I do with this?” I do experiment in the kitchen but that’s usually just mixing up things I already know and have used before. This was something completely new to me, never tasted it before.
I have to apologise to David, who sent me the pollen, as I was full of beans when we spoke about it and then my little mid-food crisis came along and the kitchen was abandoned for a few weeks. I’m sure David hasn’t been sat at home fretting about it but I just want to say sorry for the wait.
A few recent events have got my taste buds tingling again and the creative juices flowing (nothing like a good old cliché). The first was Raymond Blanc’s Hungry Frenchman program, I wanted to be there with him and would have given my left elbow to have replaced one of the chefs he took. A trip to a local farmer’s market and more recently Borough Market along with a recent trip to Mark Sargeant’s Rocksalt, which reminded me that I don’t have to over complicate things and that good ingredients cooked simply can make for amazing dishes.
So it’s Sunday morning, I look at the pollen again. I remember making a carpaccio of venison with a star anise based coating before as I smell that aniseed aroma. It’s Sunday Simon, you’re in town, there’s no butcher, yeah Venison’s a great idea. I go to a certain supermarket, a small version of their usual superstores. I search the meat section and come across a very nice looking fillet of beef and off I pop home with it with the brain cells ticking over.
At home I look round the kitchen. The shape of the beef makes it a bit hard to roll it and do a carpaccio as I had first thought. I spy a bottle of cherry vinegar, hmmmmmmmmm, what’s in the spice rack? Mustard seeds, black onion seeds, black peppercorns. I glance at the coffee grinder (not used for coffee beans). I get a bowl and put a couple of table spoons of olive oil and cherry vinegar in, add the ground spices, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of fennel pollen. I taste, damn it’s good. Anyone thinking of a salad dressing, this will be just as good for that.
I coat the beef fillet, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge overnight. Monday night arrives, I now have fresh prawns, chilli, lime, chunky coleslaw, new pots and cherry tomatoes on the vine. It’s a pick & mix night as two of us are sharing this. The prawns are left to sit in chili and lime juice (forgot to pick up coriander) and then fried lightly. The new potatoes are steamed in a herb butter and the toms are left just as they are.
I pan fry the beef fillet on a medium heat so the coating doesn’t burn, it is to be seared only and then left to rest. My kitchen by this point smells fantastic and I smile. I’m enjoying cooking again and it feels great. I slice the beef fillet, very rare in the middle, and plate up with the prawns and toms. The pots and coleslaw are on the table to dig in.
The taste test. The beef is good. I was careful with this as I didn’t want to overpower it and I probably could have upped how much pollen I used. The cherry vinegar gives a freshness to it with the black peppercorns adding a slight heat. It’s good, not brilliant and can be worked on but it’s still damn tasty.
For a small fillet of beef I used the following:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 Tablespoons of Womersley Foods Cherry Vinegar
1 teaspoon of fennel pollen from Global Harvest
1 teaspoon each of ground black peppercorns, mustard seeds & black onion seeds.
Pinch of salt.
For more info on the ingredients please contact:
David at Global Harvest for all things pollen.
www.globalharvestlimited.com and follow on Twitter @Globalharvest01
Rupert at Womersley food for all things vinegar.
www.womersleyfoods.co.uk and follow on Twitter @WomersleyFoods