4 baby fennel bulbs, blanched for 3 minutes, tops and fronds removed and each bulb halved lengthways
vegetable oil for deep frying
For the salad
1 bulb of fennel, sliced on a mandolin and kept in iced water, leaves retained and chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
To make the mayonnaise, put the egg yolks in a jug and add a few drops of the oil. Use an electric hand whisk to whisk in the oil. Add some more drops of oil, whisking and making sure each drop is incorporated before adding more drops. When the mixture starts to thicken, pour in the oil in a thin, steady stream. Once all the oil is added, stir in the mustard, lemon juice (to taste) and fennel seeds. Season with salt and pepper.
To make the beignets, place the cornflour, plain flour and baking powder in a bowl. Stir in the sparkling water to create a batter that coats the back of a spoon.
Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 180C. (CAUTION: hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended.) Dip the baby fennel into the batter and fry for a few minutes, until crispy. Transfer to kitchen paper to drain.
For the salad, dress the fennel slices with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt.
To serve, spoon some mayonnaise onto each plate (any leftover mayonnaise can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week). Add the fennel beignets to the plates and top with the fennel slices and leaves.
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