Roast Fennel & Blood Orange Salad

I tried raw fennel a little while ago and it was horrible. No no, aniseed and I do not get along happily but, I must admit, I was disappointed in my tastebuds. I mean, fennel is the golden child of the culinary world at the moment. I was disappointed but determined to find the good in this bulb, so I googled 'roasted fennel' and was told by various cyber chefs that roast fennel is actually very different to its natural state. So, off I went to the supermarket where a couple of rich blood oranges caught my eye. For the second time in my life, I reached up and carefully plucked a couple of fennel bulbs from the shelf as though their 'black jelly bean' scent would poison me. (It didn't.) I couldn't resist grabbing myself a ball of bouncy, organic mozzarella in the hope that it would make friends with the other babies in my basket.

I got home, blocked my nose while I sliced the bulb, and then slid it into the oven to roast. Soon, the fennel had caramelised and softened to resemble an onion. I hesitantly tasted a sliver and found myself quite surprised at the earthy, subtle flavour. Any trace of aniseed had disappeared completely, allowing it to match nicely with the fresh, zingy blood oranges and the milky, rich shreds of mozzarella. 

Serves 4-6

What you'll need:
2 fennel bulbs, sliced
2 clove garlic, chopped 
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 blood oranges 
4 teaspoons caster sugar
200g mozzarella
Salt and pepper
Basil to garnish

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with aluminium foil.

In a bowl, combine the fennel, garlic and oil. Season well with salt and pepper and tip out onto prepared tray. Bake for half an hour or until the fennel has softened and caramelised. 

While the fennel is cooling, chop the rind off the orange and follow it's natural makeup to cut it into segments. Place in a small bowl, add the caster sugar and toss to combine. Tear up the mozzarella and add to the orange segments.

Add the fennel to the orange and cheese and toss to combine once more. Spoon the salad into a serving bowl and garnish with basil. Enjoy!