Bronze Fennel, Apple and Elderflower Infused Cucumber, Feta
This dish was inspired by some of the things growing in my parents garden in the summer. This dish is just a couple of elements but to me it is my parents garden at this time of year on a plate.
I loved the shapes and look of the bronze fennel leaves and their natural taste, so I did nothing to these except for pick the tips at random. The leaves have a slightly sweet anise flavour, almost like liquorice.
I decided to pair the fennel with elderflower that was growing near by and then also apple, which goes beautifully with both fennel and elderflower.
I prepared a sweet and aromatic infusion of apple and elderflower, with a hit of calvados and vacuum infused (see bellow) cucumber with this liquid. The vacuum infused cucumber has a really interesting texture and a translucency that makes it look like gellee once it’s been cut to small 2mm cubes.
Vacuum infusing the cucumber with apple elderflower is my play on the idea of the dish as a salad. I also used tiny cubes of feta give a nice salty and sharp touch.
I loved playing with idea of presenting the dish in a way that contrasted the beautiful natural and spiky shape of the fennel leaves with the geometric shapes I cut the feta and infused cucumber into.
NOTE - I actually came back to this dish a year later and did a version of it for Norwegian D2 Magazine, here I included some diced pickled beetroot and a smoked apple puree.
They ended up using the dish on their front cover -
Apple and Elderflower Vacuum Infused Cucumbers
Apple and Elderflower Liquid -
400g Apple Juice
4 Tablespoons Dried Elderflower
75g Caster Sugar
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
Heat all the ingredients except the lemon juice in a pan and bring to a simmer. Allow to gently simmer, occasionally stirring, for 15 minutes.
Set the pan to one side to allow the liquid to slowly cool.
Then strain and add the lemon juice.
Chill in the fridge until needed
Cucumber Infusion –
The easiest way to perform this vacuum infusion is using a chamber vacuum machine, however if you do not have access to one you can go to the following link for information from Dave Arnold on other infusion techniques - see his post here
So first off I cut thin (a couple of millimetre thick) strips of cucumber flesh.
Place the cucumber strips in a tub. Pour over all of the chilled apple and elderflower liquid to cover the cucumber well.
Now pull a vacuum on the cucumbers which are submerged in the infusion liquid - you will see air bubbling out of the cucumber strips.
When you release the vacuum the air rushes back in - this will force liquid into the space left from removing the air from the cucumber
Once infused the cucumber will turn translucent. You then just need to cut the cucumber into small 2mm cubes.
Simply cut good quality feta to the same 2mm cubes as the cucumber
To Plate Up
I simply placed a few springs of the bronze fennel around the plate. Then placed cucumber and feta cubes all around the plate and finished off the dish with a sprinkling of fresh elderflowers and a pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt.