A feast of oranges part 1 – roasted fennel, black barley, almond and orange salad

If you ignore the cold weather and the rain, there are some good things about winter – new season oranges have to be close to the top of my list. There were hundreds of boxes of them at the Victoria market the other weekend fresh from orange growing country around Mildura. They made such a colourful sight on what was otherwise a grey, dull day. I thought of the fresh orange juice mamma would make for me each morning when I was in primary school. As she started work at 7am, she would prepare a glass from me before she left for work – and I would find it on the kitchen table when I got up, just as she was leaving – a giant fresh dose of vitamin C each morning.

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I had been adding oranges to salads quite a bit – their acidic sweetness seems to work particularly well with fennel, red radicchio and feta cheese. The contrasting textures and sweet/bitter/savoury flavours in these combinations are heavenly! I recently introduced my elderly mamma to orange segments in a salad with red radicchio – she looked at it skeptically but after tasting it, she just loved the contrast! I always remove all the bitter white pith and the tough membrane leaving soft oranges segments when I am preparing an orange for a salad. This link gives you instructions and photos on how to fillet/section an orange so that there is no membrane left – it is easy once you have done it a couple of times, just make sure you have a thin sharp knife. My current favourite salad is one that I modified from a recipe on food52 which combines roasted fennel and roasted almonds with freshly squeezed orange juice. I modified by it by adding orange segments and substituting the couscous for black barley. Using couscous certainly makes it a quicker meal to prepare, but the black barley has a firmer texture, nuttier flavour and makes quite a dramatic visual contrast to the fennel. You could easily substitute your favourite grain here – freekah, quinoa, wild rice or couscous – depending on what is in your pantry and how much time you have as they all have differing cooking times. You can buy black barley from speciality food stores (I purchased mine at the Essential Ingredient in Prahran, Melbourne).

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The salad I made with black barley, roasted fennel, roasted almonds and orange segments is a taste sensation, with citrus, aniseed and nutty flavours combining with the different textures of the ingredients. It one of those salads that could easily be an entree for an evening meal or a light lunch on its own. Over the next few weeks I will be writing several posts and recipes using oranges, including other salads. If you have never tried oranges in a salad, I urge you to try – I am sure you will be a convert to this easy and delicious way to get your daily dose of vitamin C!

Roasted fennel, grain, almond and orange salad

  • Difficulty: easy
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1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup currants
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and cut into about 16 wedges
3 tablespoons good quality olive oil,
1/4 cup almonds, roasted and coarsely chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup black barley
1 orange, segments only (all pith removed)
1 small golden shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoon fennel fronds, chopped
freshly ground pepper and salt, to taste

Soak the currants in orange juice for about 1 – 2 hours; strain, and set aside.

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil and add the black barley. Cook for 40 minutes (or follow the instructions/cooking time on the packet). Drain when cooked and set aside. The grains should be cooked thorough but firm.

Whilst the barley is cooking, toss the fennel wedges in one tablespoon of the olive oil, adding some pepper and salt; place on a lined baking sheet and roast in a 180C (350F) oven for 15 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.

Fillet the orange (using this link for instructions). Collect the juice in a small bowl under the orange while you are filleting it.

In a separate bowl, whisk together shallots and vinegar, then whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil; add pepper and salt to taste. Whisk in a teaspoon of orange juice left over from the filleted orange. Set aside.

Transfer the black barley to a serving bowl and stir through the orange-soaked currents, orange segments, roasted almonds and fennel fronds. Toss with the dressing. Scatter over the roasted fennel and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Recipes with oranges:
Pumpkin gnocchi with orange butter
Flourless orange cake

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