A Radish Revelation

When dining at a Michelin starred restaurant, one expects to be wowed by fancy pastry work, complicated cooking techniques, and food presentation striking enough to warrant space at the Louvre. During my recent meal at The Kitchin I was amazed by a radish.

The simple root veg was presented whole, leaves in tact, as part of a complimentary crudites starter. Figuring anything they put on the table was going to be of a high standard I decided to be brave and try a radish — a vegetable I've done my best to avoid ever since I grew teeth. To me they were just bitter watery disks, lurking in salads, requiring a swift removal. But this one looked different; more stunted-carrot in shape, with a colouring bleeding from hot pink to white tip. I crunched down, and it was a revelation. Crisp, peppery, refreshing and spicy, I'd never tasted such a radish. Do I like radishes? By the time you get to your 30s you don't have many moments when you realise a food you detested as a child is actually nice, most of those transitions happened more than a decade ago. But for me it obviously took a multi-award winning restaurant to restore the humble radish's reputation.

Back in London I eagerly headed to the farmers' market in search of a similar style radish, the variety most well-known as French Breakfast (does not taste like a croissant). Initially all I could find were the round ones, the shape I associate with my past displeasure. But at last, I spotted bunches of the torpedo-shaped beauties at a market and bought several to use in some recipes that sounded like good beginner radish fodder. Buoyed by my new-found confidence I even picked up a pack of hot pink round radishes at the supermarket to try in recipes.

I chose a few recipes that are ideal for summertime meals and picnics. Each of these has a cool base, and ingredients that compliment the radish's perkiness perfectly. Make sure you use fresh, firm radishes, they go a bit bendy after a couple of days and lose their crunch. If the leaves are still attached, and fresh, try tossing the peppery greens into salads and stir-fries.

Open-face Radish Sandwiches
Adapted from: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's food column in The Guardian

Makes about 4 - 5 slices, depending on bread size

150g radishes
200g cream cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons chives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 - 5 slices good fresh bread (rye or brown best)

Finely shred or julienne all but four of the radishes onto two stacked paper towels. Bring in the sides of the towels and pat the radish shreds to get a lot of the moisture out.

Mix together the cream cheese, herbs and lemon juice in a bowl. Stir in the radish shreds and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Thinly slice the remaining radishes. Spread the mix evenly across the slices of bread (or toast) and place the radish slices on top. Sprinkle with a bit more salt, and serve.

Radish Tzatziki
Adapted from: Tesco food promotional magazine

Tzatziki is traditionally a yogurt and cucumber based sauce, served with Greek and Turkish food. But it's very versatile. I found this version went wonderfully alongside a platter of freshly made falafels, grilled halloumi, sliced beetroot, roasted red peppers, and rocket.

200g Greek yogurt
1/2 garlic clove, minced
8 mint leaves, finely chopped
10 radishes, grated

Mix ingredients together, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Falafel with radish tzatziki; Flatbread with radish raita

Radish Raita
Adapted from: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's food column in The Guardian

Raita is a yogurt and spice based sauce typically used as cooling agent alongside Indian food. This version still works to balance out spicy flavours, and the zinginess of the radish makes it interesting enough to enjoy simply with some flatbread. I use Greek yogurt here, as I like the thickness, but plain yogurt works fine as well.

200g Greek yogurt
8 radishes, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 tablespoons coriander leaves, shredded
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a small frying pan over medium-high heat, for no more than a minute, to bring out their fragrance. Grind them together using a mortar and pestle.

In a bowl stir together the yogurt, radishes, lime juice, and fresh coriander. Stir in the ground seeds, and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Love your Leftovers: The spread and dips will keep for a couple of days in the fridge and are brilliant dolloped on a variety of leftovers, spread on sandwiches, or served with grilled veggies or fish. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge. When you use them later give them a good stir as the radishes will have released some water. They will most likely be a bit pinker too, as the radish skin has had time to mingle and brighten things up.

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