Fennel pollen: A suggestion for cooks who want to be more adventurous in the kitchen
It may be the third most expensive spice after saffron and cardamom, but fortunately a little is transformative with a subtle, yet haunting, fragrance. Its discovery growing wild just south of the Yosemite National Park in California was certainly a Damascene moment for David Mason, of Global Harvest, who is single-handedly turning chefs on to its charms in dishes from venison carpaccio to wild salmon, even mixed with breadcrumbs to coat green-lipped mussels and in fishcakes. Each "umbrella", or flower, is handpicked, then sun-dried before going through numerous screen filters to arrive at pure pollen. After every harvest the plants are re-pollinated to ensure a sustainable yield year after year. Fennel pollen has already starred on MasterChef and is used to beguiling effect by the Tanner brothers of Tanners with brill, buttered leeks, cockles (fashionably also on the brink of rediscovery) and vermouth and more radically in chocolate truffles by Russell Brown at Sienna Restaurant, also in Dorset.