Enjoy this amazing fresh salad as prepared by Paul West and Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall in episode 1 of River Cottage Australia. The bitterness of the banana flower is balanced by all the other ingredients.
Prepare banana flower first. Peel the outer leaves of the banana flower, discarding any small undeveloped bananas you come across until you get to the pale leaves covering creamy heart.
Lop off the base of the stem, pulling out any remaining small undeveloped bananas.
Lay the pale centre petals flat, one on top of each other and slice very finely on the diagonal. Immediately put into acidulated water (one litre of water with the juice of a lemon added) to prevent discolouring.
Soak the banana flower for up to 4 hours, changing the water half way through. The flavour of the banana flower is quite astringent and bitter and the longer you soak, the less of the astringent bitterness you will have in the final salad. It isn’t necessary to soak for this length of time if you don’t mind the bitterness – there is a lot of sweetness in the remaining ingredients which will balance the dish well.
It’s very important however to immediately plunge the flower into acidulated water, regardless of whether you intend to soak it because banana flowers blacken quickly once they come into direct contact with air.
Before using in the salad, rinse the sliced flower until the water runs clear.
Peel the green outer husk of the macadamias and then crack the brown nuts with a hammer. Scoop out the milky nut. It doesn’t matter if the nuts don’t come out whole, as you only need rustic chunks for the salad.
Peel and segment the mandarins and then shave the baby fennel bulbs.
Pick some of the feathery fronds of the bulbs and set aside.
Lay the banana flower slices on a plate alternating with the fennel bulbs. Scatter with mandarins, green macadamias and fennel fronds. Dress with olive oil and some mandarin juice and season with salt and pepper.
* You can get Banana Flowers at Asian and Islander grocers. If there aren’t any in your area, ask your greengrocer to order some in for you. Alternatively, you can substitute raw thinly sliced artichokes. Green papaya would work well too.
** These are hard to find in the shops. You could ask your local greengrocer to source some for you. Ask your friends and neighbours if they have them in the garden; they’re not an unusual plant to find in the backyard. Otherwise, you could track down macadamia growers themselves and buy direct. If you’re having no luck, the recipe is still great with unsalted roasted or unroasted macadamias (preferably unroasted).