for the ricotta:
- 2 tsp fennel seeds or 1 tsp ground fennel
- 4 cups milk
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
for the salad:
- 1 small fennel bulb, fronds picked and reserved
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced into rounds
- 1 lb heirloom tomatoes, cut into chunks
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 150g sourdough bread, torn
- 3 tbsp crispy fried shallots, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 tsp nigella seeds
- holy basil or green or purple basil to serve (optional)
- To make the ricotta, use a mortar and pestle to grind the fennel seeds into a fairly fine powder. Add to a saucepan along with the milk. Place over medium heat and bring to the boil. Stir in the lemon juice, then as soon as you see the mixture begin to split, remove from the heat and set aside for 30 minutes to curdle.
- Line a sieve or colander with cheesecloth or a clean cloth. Strain the mixture through the sieve to separate the curds from the whey. Reserve the whey for your next batch of pancakes or vegetable soup! Place the sieve over a large bowl and leave in the fridge for 1 hour to drain and cool completely.
- Meanwhile, cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise, then use a mandoline to thinly slice the fennel halves on the cut side. Place in a bowl of iced water.
- Toss the onion, tomatoes and vinegar in a bowl.
- Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the bread chunks and cook, stirring, for 4–5 minutes, or until golden. Add the shallot flakes and the caraway, sesame and nigella seeds, and cook for 1–2 minutes, or until fragrant.
- To serve, drain the fennel and toss with the tomato mixture. Arrange on a platter and crumble the ricotta over. Sprinkle with the crispy spiced bread mixture, fennel fronds and basil, and finish with a final drizzle of olive oil