“You’re really into your foraging at the moment, aren’t you,” a friend said to me recently. And I guess I am. In part it was because I was busy in Spring with writing, work and life in general – too busy to get around to cleaning up my vegie patch and putting tomatoes and other summer crops in. But I like home grown. So I thought I would treat the great bush capital of Canberra as my giant vegie patch.
One of my favourite things to forage in summer is wild fennel. It grows in thick clumps next to roads, and begins to make its presence known in early summer (best around Christmas time). You probably never notice it until you realise what it is, then it seems to be everywhere. My favourite foraging ground is in the industrial suburb of Fyshwick – I love the concept of eating something that is tenacious enough to survive in the concrete jungle.
I was a bit late foraging it this year, so it is already starting to flower and go to seed. You can eat the flowers and seeds as well – I loved this recipe from Susan’s Sumptuous Suppers for fried fennel flower fritters. But this pasta recipe, a variation of a traditional Sicilian recipe, uses the leaves, which impart a unique and subtle aniseed like flavour to the dish. (You can substitute Italian parsley or other fresh herbs if you can’t access fennel leaves.)
This is nice cooked with bucatini pasta which is a type of thick spaghetti – somewhat old fashioned, but comforting. I didn’t use it as I had artisan style thick durum wheat pasta – so I used that. As I am dieting, I allowed only 75g of pasta per person (or 300g in total) but use more up to 500g total if you prefer.
The main ingredient here is a common tin of sardines – a frugalista’s friend at only 59c a can from ALDI. Sardines are a rich source of omega 3 and calcium, and are also low in mercury.
And I have found that this recipe improves the next day, so is perfect for lunch. I really like my Japanese style lunchboxes that I found – perfect for small diet friendly meals.
300g bucatini or a thick pasta
1 tin of sardines (in springwater)
2 cloves of garlic
3 medium tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon turmeric powder (use fresh if available)
½ cup chopped wild fennel
½ lemon, squeezed, or a few tablespoons good quality vinegar
- Cook the spaghetti in a large saucepan of boiling salted water.
- Crush or chop the garlic and fry in a tablespoon of olive oil. After a few minutes, add the tomatoes and continue to cook until soft. Add the turmeric, and continue to cook for a further two or three minutes.
- Flake the sardines with a fork, removing any bones, and then add to the fry pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Drain the pasta, reserving a little liquid. Add the fennell o the fry pan, and then add the hot pasta. Mix to combine adding additional cooking water from the pasta, if required, and serve. Sprinkle with lemon juice as desired.
Tomatoes 60c (or free if you are lucky to have a friend with a vegie patch)
Wild fennel free
Olive oil 25c
Total $3.09 or 77c a serve
344 calories a serve