I spent the weekend in the garden, and had to face the rambling wildness of our herb patch. In particular, the time had come to do something about the horseradish.
Now, horseradish is one of those plants that, like mint, is incredibly easy to grow and incredibly tricky to control. It's recommended that you plant it in a pot to keep it in check. We didn't do that, and ended up with a plant that, while magnificent with its bold green flags of leaves, was taking over.
I went in with a fork, and showed it who was boss.
The end result of my labour was about half a kilo of gnarly root, clean white at the point where I'd snapped it free. It smelt, ever so faintly, of the sharp tang of the stuff I'd dollop on my roast beef. Time to make horseradish sauce.
Now, you can just grate freshly from the root, and it'll store in the freezer quite happily. But I fancied an experiment, so after a quick Google I found just how easy horseradish sauce is to make.
I peeled and cubed about 225g of the root and slung it in my trusty Magimix, along with a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of honey and 175 ml of cider vinegar. Then I simply blasted it all into a pale, sloppy paste. Sauce done.
Now, a warning. Do not, whatever you do, peer into the bowl of the processor once you're finished. The active ingredient in horseradish, the thing that gives that sting, allyl isothiocyanate, is released when the root is grated or blitzed, and there's a lot of it aerosolised in the bowl of the processor. End result: if you put your face over the bowl, you will end up with an eyeful of concentrated eau d'raifort. If you think that stuff stings on the plate, imagine how it feels in your tearducts. I speak from bitter experience. Don't do it.
Ok, so we have our sauce. Now, what do we do with it? It's not like we have roast beef every day. Well, horseradish is a member of the Brassicaceae family, which includes mustard. And there's your clue. You can use horseradish in any recipe that calls for mustard: the two have a similar pungency and sinus-tickling sting. It's great with oily fish, cutting through the richness. This is something the Japanese know all about with sushi (fun fact: most wasabi sold in the West is actually dyed horseradish. The real stuff is surprisingly hard to get hold of outside Japan). It's remarkably good with mackerel, for example. Try it in mash, or mixed into mayo for a condiment or dip with a kick.
To sum up, then. Horseradish is easy to grow, and remarkably versatile. Try it with something other than roast beef, and be prepared to have your taste buds tickled in the nicest way.