Horseradish is a long, rough, tapering root, not unlike a parsnip, with rings, and tiny roots sprouting from the main root. Horseradish is sold fresh, but is more often available grated. Dried, flaked and powdered horseradish is also sold and this retains its pungency more fully than the grated form which is stored in vinegar. The best fresh roots are thick and well grown; thin and insubstantial roots, apart from being hard to use, are inferior in pungency. Japanese horseradish, or wasabi, is a pale green powder, similar in flavour to horseradish but made from the tuber of a herb, Wasabia japonica.
Bouquet: When intact, the root has little aroma. Once scraped or broken, it exudes a penetrating smell and is apt to irritate the nostrils, making the eyes stream even more than onions do.
Flavour: The taste is very strong, very hot and sharp.
- Look for a small horseradish root that is exceptionally hard and free of spongy or soft spots; very large horseradish roots may be quite fibrous. Dried horseradish flakes and powder may also be found. Prepared horseradish is mixed with vinegar and packed in small glass jars; the red kind has beet juice added to it for colour and a bit of sweetness. Look for prepared horseradish in the dairy section of the supermarket.
- Avoid sprouting, shriveled, or green-tinged horseradish, which may be bitter.
- Fresh horseradish can be grated at home quite easily but the root should first be trimmed and scraped under running water to remove soil. Not much flavour lies in the central core, which is difficult to grate, and should be discarded. Note The fumes are potent! Grind or grate fresh horseradish in a well-ventilated room, and avoid breathing the fumes.
- The whole root can be kept in the vegetable drawer of a refrigerator for a few weeks. Grated horseradish may be kept in white vinegar or successfully frozen in a sealed container and used as required. Powdered horseradish is reconstituted by mixing with water but, like powdered mustard, remember to allow time for the full flavour to develop.
There are no half measures associated with horseradish: it is a potent gastric stimulant and is the perfect accompaniment for rich or rather fatty foods. The main use is in horseradish sauce. This is made most simply by mixing the grated root with sugar and vinegar to the desired consistency. However, cream, sour cream or wine is also a common base for this traditional English sauce to accompany roast beef, sometimes spices such as garlic, mustard and pepper are added.
As a sauce, horseradish also complements tongue, sausages, cold egg dishes, cheese, chicken and hot ham.
It is good with fish and is often served with smoked trout.
Mixed with yogurt it is a piquant topping to baked potatoes.
Horseradish butter is excellent with grilled fish and meat.
In America, horseradish is a favourite flavouring in party dips.
With grated apple it makes a sharp dressing for fish, and in tomato-based sauces, like “seafood sauce” for shrimp cocktails.
When served hot, horseradish loses its pungency and is quite mild.
Wasabi is used in Japanese cookery in the fillings for sushi and as a dipping sauce to accompany raw fish. It is mixed to a paste in the same way as mustard and used similarly as a condiment.
Category: Spices and Herbs
Sub Category: Spice
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