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THE HERITAGE INGREDIENT HORSERADISH

It may look innocuous, dull even, but it packs a powerful punch – which is probably why horseradish has been so eagerly adopted in Britain. Debbie Major gets grating, then cooks up recipes that show off the fiery temperament of this knobbly root
PHOTOGRAPHS ANDREW MONTGOMERY STYLING OLIVIA WARDLE

In my household, no piece of British roast beef is ever eaten without a dollop of homemade horseradish sauce on the side.

But this fiery member of the mustard family isn’t from Britain – in fact, Armoracia rusticana (its botanical name) is native to Eastern Europe and grew wild in Russia, Poland and Finland. Yet it’s been grown here since the 16th century and become part of British culinary heritage, probably as a result of its use in Jewish and eastern European dishes.

The key to the root’s heat lies in the preparation – the spicy bite is almost absent from the white fleshy root until it’s finely grated or ground. It’s only on contact with the air that the volatile compound isothiocyanate (a type of mustard oil) is released – and saliva helps to develop its bite.

Horseradish is always used raw and served cold because its volatile oils quickly disappear when heated. In fact, the pungency starts to diminish from the moment the root is grated, so it’s best not to grate it too far ahead. Commercial horseradish sauces use vinegar to preserve the heat, but this alters the taste too. Nothing beats a sauce made from the freshly grated root.

As well as with my Sunday roast beef, I love a touch of horseradish in a Bloody Mary, a marie rose sauce for a prawn cocktail and in macaroni cheese. It’s also fab beaten into cream cheese, spread onto rye bread, then topped with smoked salmon. And it makes a great sauce for roast pork when mixed with grated apple, soured cream, chopped mint and a touch of sugar.

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About Delicious Magazine

The August issue of delicious. is bursting with summer goodness: find three beautiful burgers (one’s vegetarian), a dreamy menu from Provence, the best tomato recipes, favourite seaside dishes re-invented and the hottest (and coolest) puds. Dan Doherty tries out his brunch recipes, Francesco Mazzei and José Pizarro create a feast with their chef friends and Meera Sodha cooks lighter vegetarian meals. We’ve also squeezed in Allan Pickett’s duck rillettes, an array of speedy midweek meals and much more…
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