In the hairdresser recently I noticed that Food and Travel Magazine had a recipe for a fennel and lemon salad which they’d garnished with caramelised walnuts with chilli flakes. I like the concept but with pecans instead of walnuts and minus the chilli, so that it’s worthwhile opening a nice bottle of wine.

You might try an assyrtiko from Santorini, as recommended by Victoria Moore as a pairing for preserved lemon in her The Wine Dine Dictionary. She comments that “….it has some weight, and you can almost taste the black lava that the roots of the vines have grown in, as well as feel a kind of voltage charge”. I’d exchange that sort of effect for chilli any day! Roberson’s Wines stock it.

This is a fabulous vegetarian pasta dish.


It will keep warm in a warming oven for about an hour.


Recipe for warm pasta, fennel and lemon salad

Serves 6


  •  tsp250g/9 oz kritharaki or orzo pasta (it looks a bit like rice)
  • 3 bulbs of fennel, sliced
  • 3 lemons – zested and then peeled and sliced- or you could use preserved lemons if you have any
  • 1 tbsp bitter honey – chestnut for example
  • 40g/¼ cup capers
  • 30g/¼ cup chopped pecans – plus more for caramelising, see below
  • 240 ml/1 cup yoghurt (not the thick Greek type, normal, slightly runnier type)
  • 60 ml/¼ cup olive oil plus more for frying
  • 140g/5 oz Crespo pitted dried black olives with herbs
  • 50g/½ cup grated pecorino
  • 4 fat cloves of garlic crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt
  • Smoked salt and Indonesian long pepper
  • caramelised and salted pecans – optional – see below


  1. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions – go for more al dente timings. Drain.
  2. At the same time put a generous glug of olive oil in a big saucepan and add the fennel, honey, sliced lemons and lemon zest. Cook gently until soft.
  3. Meanwhile make the yoghurt dressing by mixing the yoghurt, garlic and olive oil together.
  4. Empty the fennel and lemons into a heatable serving dish. Add the drained pasta. Mix in the nuts, olives and capers.
  5. Pour in the dressing and mix in well.
  6. Serve with the pecorino


For the caramelised and salted pecans:

  • 100g/4 oz pecans – chopped
  • 60ml/¼ cup runny honey
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ¼ tsp sea salt flakes
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a small bowl.
  3. Spread the coated nuts out on a silicon-lined baking tray.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes.