Now, I like foraging and for a few years I’ve had ambitions of hunting for horseradish.
I was inspired by a cracking horseradish sauce I had with a roast at a pub in north Norfolk. It was at once hot, peppery and creamy and perfect with beef.
Come November each year I’ve set about searching the field margins for the root topped with its distinctive leaves but, I’ve either left it too late and the leaves have died back or they’ve been shredded by the annual hedge cut.
So this year, I went about the forage early and headed out in October.
The leaves were wilting, as they should when you harvest horseradish, and I diligently dug – and you have to dig hard and deep to extract the root, a spade is essential.
I expected the roots to be long and thin, like its cousin wasabi but as I loosened the soil they were curled tightly throughout the earth.
I packed the roots enthusiastically into my trug and headed home.
I immediately set some in a planter to grow them on for planting out at home later in the year – they’re a perennial – and went into the kitchen with the rest.
Having never made the sauce before I expected the root to be much more firey than Colman’s’ offering but I wasn’t expecting what lay in store.
I went about the task with enthusiasm, peeling and grating.
I got about three roots in before my eyes started streaming and all of a sudden began to swell. It was certainly damn firey! My top tip, if you’re going to prepare your own horseradish, wear goggles!
After a brief respite outside I returned to the kitchen sink not to be beaten.
I ended up with four jars of grated horseradish which I pickled with homemade cider vinegar and a dash of salt and sugar.
Pickling preserves it so you essentially have horseradish on tap all year round.
There was enough left over for a horseradish sauce to accompany that Sunday’s roast and, although dubious of the first taste fearing too much heat, I devoured a second helping, enjoying the freshness, rounded peppery heat and the sublime subtleness of flavour.
It inspired me and it’s fast become my favourite foraged ingredient in the kitchen.
Tonight I will make another batch of sauce from the pickled horseradish to sit alongside a roast rolled rump of home-reared beef.
I’ve just returned from a dog walk and on the way I saw numerous patches of the plant still growing, so if you fancy a forage, there’s still time.
How do you identify it?
It has tall dock-like leaves growing up to 1m from the ground. The leaves are shiny and often have a wavy edge.
The easiest way to make sure you have the right root is to fold a leaf in half and smell the cut edge, it will smell of horseradish if you have the right plant.
To prepare it, simply wash and peel the root, then finely grate into a jar. Once the jar is full, top it up with cider vinegar and add a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar (just make sure you prepare it in a well-ventilated space!).
The recipe below is for horseradish sauce, using the pickled root. You can also use it mixed with grated beetroot in salads, sandwiched between salmon fillets and baked or thrown into a Bloody Mary!
Perfect with beef and seafood
- 50 g pickled or fresh horseradish root grated
- 1 tsp cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp English mustard
- a small pinch of sugar
- 75 g crème fraiche
- salt and pepper
Place the grated horseradish into a bowl
Add the vinegar, mustard and sugar and to the bowl and mix well
Leave to macerate for 10 minutes
Mix again after the ten minutes and stir in the crème fraiche and season to taste with salt and pepper
The sauce will keep for a couple of days in the fridge.