So it’s been a little quiet on the blog for the last couple of months. My usual excuses for a blogging-hiatus run on the predictable theme of work/life overload, but in this case, I am pleased to say that I have been otherwise occupied with a holiday in South America.
I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to write that! I started this blog five years ago when we left New Zealand and embarked on a three-month trip around South East Asia before arriving in Australia. Since then we haven’t really travelled at all. Sure, there have been multiple trips back to New Zealand (which I generally hesitate to refer to as holidays), a quick jaunt to Rarotonga for my sister’s wedding in 2011 and a few short breaks around Australia, but we hadn’t actually travelled for longer than 10 days or visited a new country for five long years. I’m trying (and probably failing) to avoid sounding brattish here – the travel that we’ve done is still a whole lot more than many people get to do – but there’s just nothing like being lifted out of the everyday into a completely new culture to really shake things around in your head. Asia shook me well and good but that was a long time ago. With the added excuse of needing to celebrate a significant birthday in a significant way, finally and joyfully, we booked our flights and went.
Travel posts will come in due course but I don’t feel like writing yet. There’s a bit more digestion to be done and some photo-rescuing to do as well (I had a memory-card problem over there). Meanwhile, there is this salad, which is exactly what I want to eat right now. It feels cleansing, detoxifying and energising, and let’s face it, holiday diets rarely boast such virtuous properties. Now that we’re back and battling some winter lurgies its time to balance things out again. This beautiful salad tastes as vibrant and life-enhancing as it looks and will be equally as good for reviving a jaded winter palate as for boosting a travel-weary immune system. Le deseo salud y felicidad!
Winter Detox Salad with Pickled Fennel & Grapefruit
For the pickled fennel:
1 large fennel bulb
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup or runny honey
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup water
1 small orange, preferably organic
5 whole star anise
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, very finely chopped
For the salad:
1/4 head small red cabbage
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 pinches sea salt, to taste
1 grapefruit (pink or regular) and/or 1 orange
Italian parsley (leaves picked whole), crushed pink peppercorns (optional), more olive oil
The pickled fennel needs to sit, undisturbed in the fridge for 24 hours before it is eaten, so prepare this the day before you wish to eat your salad. Slice the fennel very thinly, ideally using a mandolin or otherwise a very sharp knife. Slice the orange (leave the peel on) into thin slices about 3mm thick. Place two slices of orange in the base of a clean 1 litre jar and top with one-fifth of the prepared fennel. You may want to press the fennel down firmly using a wooden spoon or spatula. Scatter over a little of the chopped ginger and one star anise, then continue to stack orange, fennel, ginger and anise until you reach the top of the jar.
Combine the vinegar, maple syrup or honey, salt and water in a jug and stir well to dissolve the salt. Pour the brine into the jar, ensuring that the contents are completely covered, discarding any excess brine. Press the top layer gently with a spoon to help release any large air bubbles, then screw the lid on the jar and place in the fridge for 24 hours. The fennel should be fine to eat for up to three weeks. It is fantastic with cheese and crackers as well as salad.
To prepare the salad, use a mandolin or sharp knife to slice the cabbage thinly. Place the cabbage in a bowl and add the olive oil, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of pickled fennel brine from the jar. Toss to combine. Slice the rind off the grapefruit or orange and segment the flesh. Peel and slice the avocado.
Arrange the cabbage, grapefruit, avocado and pickled fennel on a plate. Add some parsley leaves and crushed peppercorns for colour and another drizzle of olive oil if desired.