I love mixing textures of cooked and raw vegetables in salads. In this case, soft wilted spinach with shaved fennel and apple that add sweetness and crunch, while the pistachio butter adds nutty creaminess. I also throw a few crushed, deeply toasted fennel seeds in to add a bit more interest.
If you’re lucky enough to find beautiful spinach clusters with the roots attached, leave those on as they look so beautiful on the plate.
2 large bunches English spinach, large stems trimmed (leave whole if using baby spinach with the roots attached)
1 large fennel bulb
1 large sweet apple
2 teaspoons darkly toasted fennel seeds
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
50 g (1 3/4 oz/1/3 cup) toasted pistachios
20 ml (3/4 fl oz) olive oil
First, wash the spinach really well as it can be quite sandy.
Heat a wide frying pan over a medium heat, add the spinach with a pinch of salt, cover with a lid and sauté for 1 minute. The water that clings to the leaves will steam the spinach without the need to add anything else. When just wilted, remove from the pan and set aside to cool. Once cool, squeeze gently to remove any excess moisture.
To make the pistachio butter, crush the toasted pistachios in a mortar and pestle until they begin to form a paste. Add the olive oil with a pinch of salt and mix to combine. Set aside.
Cut the core from the fennel and remove any tough, browned outer leaves. Cut the fennel down the middle and slice very thinly on a mandoline or using a knife if it’s good and sharp. Slice the apple the same way, being careful to stop when you begin to hit the core. Toss these shavings in a bowl with the spinach. Add the fennel seeds, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper and enough lemon juice to brighten everything.
Assemble on your plate so that everything is layered and gently stacked. Drizzle the top with the pistachio butter and serve.
If your pistachio butter is very thick, mix with a small amount of boiling water to loosen.