Fennel, particularly baby fennel seems to be available, in good condition and at a reasonable price in Alice Springs supermarkets. If you can't find it or are short on cash, have a look in your backyard or if you live in the southern states of Australia, check out your local railway line, it may be growing wild there.
I only buy crisp fennel. Happy to buy large or small bulbs, but it must be crisp. Soggy fennel only gives you the option of cooking it, it's not great to eat. Fresh uncooked fennel is a fantastic flavour and overall experience. It should be crispy and sweet, with an aniseed after taste.
In our family we deliberate on whether to cook fennel or eat it fresh with olive oil and salt. Both my husband and son always want it fresh. I always want to cook "the be geezus out of it" so it is sweet and soft and caramelised. However the following recipe seems to keep all of us happy. I must say, I am not much of a salad cook, but this recipe is an amazing taste sensation of saltiness, sweetness and a range of different textures.
Fennel, orange, black olive and baked ricotta salad.
Preparation time: around 20 mins
1 large bulb of fennel or 2 smaller ones
2 oranges (peeled and segmented without skin)
Around 1/2 cup of black olives (I prefer Kalamata)
Baked ricotta (slice)
Virgin olive oil
Rasperry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
Salt & pepper
A drop of honey (option)
Slice fennel across the grain of the bulb or shave it using a mandoline. (Don't shave or use the core, but you may want to much on it while you cook.) Place fennel in a bowl of iced water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Put fennel in a salad bowl, followed by olives and orange in salad bowl and crumble ricotta over the top. Dress with oil and vinegar, a drop of hone and salt and pepper. Toss gently and serve.
Good with fish.