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Lentil, fennel, orange, chicken and rocket salad

May 10, 2014

There was something missing yesterday. My alarm didn’t go and I stayed in bed until 9am, a feeling of luxury staying under the covers with a cup of tea and my book club book. It’s The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and I’ve received much light-hearted abuse by choosing it because it’s as thick as a brick. We’ve even set up a Whats App group to give each other encouragement …. but I digress. My whole weekly shop has now changed because the Farmers’ Market has closed for the season. Higher temperatures mean that the fallow season is approaching and while some produce is still available from greenhouses (air-conditioned to cool them), the choice of local, organic veg is on the wane. I resent going back to the depressing and expensive aisles of the supermarket. There are a few places to buy the dwindling local produce – and I’ll do a round-up of these very soon.

In the meantime, as those pesky temperature start to soar, all I fancy eating is some lightly cooked vegetables or a salad. Here’s one I prepared this week with some beautiful bulbs of fennel and peppery rocket from the last market. I was very indifferent about fennel until I tried something other than the force grown ones from Holland; the memory of this first taste was vivid, at a road-side vegetable stand in Libya, and was like eating this aniseed-flavoured vegetable for the first time. The flavour was freshly invigorating not bitter as the forced stuff can be and more like a fragrant type of celery. I’m not usually prescriptive, but I would use something else if fresh, local fennel isn’t available.

This is a plate salad, a meal in itself. The earthy lentils provide ballast and soak up the slightly sharp, citrussy dressing. Orange and fennel are a great match; shave the fennel really thin on a mandoline or with a very sharp knife.

Lentil, fennel, orange, chicken and rocket salad

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 80g green lentils (puy or other firm, peppery variety)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 bulb fennel, tough outer layers removed
  • 4 oranges, 2 juiced
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, cut or torn into strips
  • 80g rocket
  • 4 teaspoons whole grain mustard


  1. Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with a generous amount of cold water (at least double the volume of lentils). Add the bay leaf, bring to the boil over high heat then reduce to a simmer for 25 minutes or until the lentils are cooked but not mushy.
  2. Slice the fennel vertically from tip to root into paper-thin slices, either on a mandoline or with a very sharp knife. Lay the slices in a shallow dish and pour over juice of two oranges and the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and leave to marinate while the lentils cook.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut the ends from the top and bottom of two of the orange. Slice the peel and pith away, cutting from top to bottom. Cut between each of the membranes to produce orange segments.
  4. When the lentils are cooked, drain them well.
  5. Remove the fennel from the marinade and whisk the mustard into the remaining liquid. Taste for seasoning. Stir 2 tablespoons of the marinade into the lentils.
  6. Just before eating, toss the lentils, orange segments, fennel, chicken and rocket together, adding extra dressing if required. Garnish with chopped fronds of fennel (optional).

A version of this recipe appeared in Aquarius magazine for a feature about packed lunches. If taking in a lunch box put the lentils in the bottom of the container, then add the oranges and fennel and lay the rocket on top. Take the rest of the dressing in a separate container and dress the salad to taste just before eating, stirring to combine all the layers.

I’m participating in Ren Behan‘s Simple and Season event with this recipe. Pop over to see what other people are cooking with seasonal fruit and veg. Thought I’d join in with Mark of the Javelin Warrior’ Cookin W/ Luv for his Made with Love Mondays too.

Where do you shop for veg and what’s in season in your part of the world? Do you have any vivid ‘first taste of’ memories?



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  1. May 10, 2014 2:38 pm

    What a gorgeous salad with lovely combinations of flavours and textures, and just right for hot weather. I can buy fennel like that in my farmers’ market … sometimes; no fennel this morning unfortunately.

    • May 11, 2014 9:21 am

      Love to hear what you do buy from the market though… I’m a real nosey parker when it comes to other people’s shopping baskets.

      • May 11, 2014 11:33 am

        I did a post on my local Twickenham farmers’ market about a year ago. It’s a great little local market where I go most weeks.

  2. May 10, 2014 2:45 pm

    What a fabulous salad Sally – just what my hubby would call a taste explosion. I feel your pain of not getting much fresh produce from our time living in Mauritius – oh and the heat of summer too.
    Have a super Saturday and enjoy your book.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    • May 11, 2014 9:22 am

      Mauritius must have been quite an adventure Mandy. Have any culinary influences crept into your cooking from your time there?

      • May 12, 2014 5:23 pm

        Mauritius was a lovely adventure (for the most part). Only a couple of culinary influences have stayed with me. Sadly the ones I liked most are not ones I can make to enjoy the way they were made on the island. Will just have to go back for a long visit. 🙂

  3. May 10, 2014 3:00 pm

    Gorgeous Sally. I love lentil salads and I don’t cook with fennel nearly enough. Sorry to hear that was the last market of the season :-// But thank you for making this and sending it across to Simple and in Season – it’s lovely to have you xxx

  4. May 10, 2014 5:47 pm

    What a fabulous and unusual combination; one that I’d never have imagined. Sounds absolutely perfect for hot weather.

    • May 11, 2014 9:23 am

      Yes – it’s just starting to get steamy here so trying to cook lighter.

  5. May 10, 2014 8:45 pm

    I do like fennel now, but – like you – I wasn’t terribly impressed on first trying it. I must say I do really like it lightly griddled and paired with fish, but it is very good raw like this with oranges and punchy rocket. I am also posting a simple orange and lightly steamed broccoli salad this week, but ours are different enough not to feel like a copycat. Stay cool, btw and LOVE the images, espesh the first on of the fennel on fabric – lush!

    • May 11, 2014 9:24 am

      I love oranges paired with anything green and strongly flavoured – with watercress is my absolute favourite.

  6. May 10, 2014 10:03 pm

    I love fennel (and lentils for that matter) but I rarely eat it raw or even by itself. I generally use it more as a background flavor paired with others… However, I’ve never had locally fresh-grown fennel, so perhaps I might love it raw if I could procure it as such… This salad looks perfect for a light spring lunch and thanks so much for sharing with Made with Love Mondays… Welcome to the series!

    • May 11, 2014 9:25 am

      Glad to join in – it’s all down to Kellie who alerted me. Braised fennel (in white wine) is really good too.

  7. May 11, 2014 12:14 am

    Sounds delicious – I grew my own fennel for the first time in the autumn and then was a bit stuck as to what to do with it. This recipe is really tempting so I had better get some more seed sown tomorrow!

    • May 11, 2014 9:26 am

      I braised some in the oven with white wine with some leeks last night, then took of the cover off to brown them a bit. It was really good.

  8. andreamynard permalink
    May 11, 2014 12:28 am

    I love lentil salads and this looks so tasty, bet it’s perfect for soaring temperatures too.

    • May 11, 2014 9:27 am

      I like the way the lentils absorb the dressing – very portable and forgiving too.

  9. May 11, 2014 9:48 am

    Bar the lentils I love the sound of this dish. I shop at my local version of Marks and Spencer as they stock a wide variety of in season organic vegetables 🙂

  10. May 11, 2014 12:48 pm

    This is so delicious, and there are many versions of a fennel/citrus salad throughout Italy. I like to add a touch of sumac for added tartness.

  11. glamorous glutton permalink
    May 11, 2014 2:03 pm

    This looks really fresh and tasty. Mr Glam isn’t keen on fennel, I didn’t realise that the flavour could be so different if bought from a local market. I’m going to give this a try with farmers market produce and see if I can change his mind. GG

  12. May 11, 2014 2:16 pm

    A wholesome and scrumptious salad! Very fresh and enjoyable.



  13. May 11, 2014 3:35 pm

    I used to replace fennel with pak choi, I know it’s not close in flavour but I only took to fennel recently and can appreciate the balance in the flavours you’ve used; heat, peppery, sour and sweet with lentil-depth. I’m going to hang on to this one to try out soon x

  14. May 11, 2014 4:39 pm

    This past winter I became obsessed with fennel and citrus salads. Will have to bookmark this one for next year! (Love that bowl, too.)

  15. May 11, 2014 5:26 pm

    Thanks Sally, this sounds yummy. I’m another recent convert to fennel. I thought I wouldn’t like it because I don’t usually like aniseed. Then I ordered some scallops which were served with some (unmentioned) fennel and it was delicious. I must try this. Thanks again, Sam x

  16. May 11, 2014 8:06 pm

    Looks delicious! Definitely will give it a try- thanks for sharing! 🙂

  17. May 12, 2014 7:04 am

    Looks lovely. I love fennel and lentils. I read the Goldfinch a few months ago, and frankly, I think the editors fell asleep at the switch. Just sayin’…

    • May 12, 2014 7:41 am

      I think it’ll give us lots to discuss at book club….. 🙂

  18. May 13, 2014 9:18 am

    First thing’s first – that fennel looks incredible! I’m going to have to hunt some down. I love the combination of ingredients in the salad – perfect for a healthy weeknight dinner. Will definitely be giving this one a go! 🙂

  19. therealgeordiearmani permalink
    May 15, 2014 6:47 pm

    Just managed to have a quick read before dashing off to watch Masterchef! Also okra cooked the Iranian way is just about tolerable for me (read the okra post but forgot to add comment), have a great weekend! GA x

  20. May 15, 2014 8:38 pm

    Is this the one that you had made for Aquarius? I am making a salad right now and I have bought everything that’s mentioned here. The oranges are creating a problem – it’s becoming very bitter. Is there any specific oranges that you have using?

    • May 15, 2014 8:41 pm

      Today was a trial run, for tomorrow actually. I am planning to use Feta Cheese too. Will it be too much? (Indians didn’t grow up eating salads honestly! Only cucumber, tomatoes and onions and I crave to make these kind of salads)

      • May 17, 2014 2:28 pm

        Feta or chicken – not both I would say.

    • May 17, 2014 2:30 pm

      Just juicy ones with lots of flavour – maybe the rocket is bitter. Add some honey to the dressing if it’s too strong for your tastes.

  21. May 22, 2014 10:28 pm

    A lovely dish that sings to me! I know that chicken, orange & fennel really work togethero I know that I Will love this georgous tasty dish! Yum! 😉


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