Friday, August 05, 2005

A Horse with Some Pain - a blogger's tale of tears

Horseradish Sauce – best not to make this your entire meal.

I’ve been waiting for about 2 years, but last Friday I got the opportunity to make some horseradish sauce. We were cooking traditional british fare; beef, potatoes, leek, spring greens and Yorkshire pudding for Greg and Taro for an impromptu tokyo (obviously) reunion.

What’s a name? The flavourguy at montrealfood explains how the horse was originally ‘hoarse’ – due to the effect on your throat. It’s a member of the mustard family (see below).

The recipe is simple:
- 30g horseradish
- ½ Lemon squeezed
- 150ml crème fraiche
- Salt and pepper to season

Peel the horseradish and grate finely. This may seem like an easy thing to do, but it really isn’t. The peeling was a simple enough affair, the outside is fairly tough, but most regular peelers are well able to get through fresh horseradish. The grating was traumatic. Horseradish is fairly tough on the grating so it takes quite a bit of effort to wear down. Unfortunately, it also seems to be WAY more pungent than onion. After a couple of minutes grating (I was doing 50g) my eyes were watering. At 4 minutes my throat was dry and hurting. Finally, my eyes were closed and I couldn’t talk. I was blindly grating, resigned to the fact that I would stop when I felt the grater on my fingertips. I was left with a bowl of gratings and a trip to the sink to cool my eyes.

Add the lemon juice to prevent the horseradish from discolouring. Add to crème fraiche. As you know, I’ve been struggling for some time with the role of salt and general flavouring in food. Surprisingly, tasting the sauce revealed very little pungency. There was a lemon flavour and crème fraiche, but nothing else to talk of. The addition of a few pinches of salt had the most remarkable ability to bring out the mustard taste of the horseradish. This was quite a revelation for me, it was also the first time blanca accepted my seasoning without any modifications (although later she reckoned that it was a little weak – this may be due to too much lemon juice (see below)).

I'm going to do some flavour / taste blogs in the future - this will be an example of where salt has a dramatic effect. I've been told that salt has a similar result in making tomato sauce...

We sautéed some leek in butter and mixed with spring greens. The leek is a member of the lily family (allium), like the asparagus, onion, garlic etc. It is a leaf, much like the scallion. It contains many of the healthy properties of other members of its family:
- reduce total cholesterol (LDL) and raise HDL
- lower blood pressure
- associated with reduced risk of prostrate and colon cancer

Its flavour is more delicate and sweeter than onion, but while chopping you can still feel the pungent aroma from the vegetable.

I roll-sliced two large leeks and was surprised to see how much they stung. Almost to the same level as an onion. This was not a meal to ingratiate me with my eyes. Hopefully they’re not spiteful or I’ll be soon susceptible to sudden periods of blindness e.g. when I’m crossing roads.

Why do these vegetables cause our eyes to water?

Thanks to open topia for the following graphic depiction of the process. Leek, like onions, has two sections within their cells; one with enzymes (allinases) and the other with sulfides (amino acids). The enzymes break down the sulfides and generate sulfenic acid. This is unstable and decomposes into a volatile gas called (syn-propanethial-S-oxide). The gas dissipates into the air and comes into contact with your eyes. Water in your eyes mix with the gas to form a mild sulfuric acid. This irritates the nerve endings on your eyes and causes the tear gland to excrete tears to dilute and flush out the irritant.

There is a good deal of information about the horseradish. You can go to the interesting horseradish homesite (interesting because it seems to be able to combine horseradish into any recipe you choose). Like many vegetable reactions (horseradish is a member of the mustard family), it is only in grating that the horseradish becomes volatile. During the process, the cells of the root are crushed, releasing isothiocyanate (EYE-so-THIGH-oh-SIGH-uh-NATE) oils. During grating, cells breakdown and form, yeah you’ve guessed it, a volatile gas. This enters your eye, throat and you know the rest. Interestingly vinegar stops and stabilises this reaction. I’m not certain, but lemon juice may produce the same effect.

p.s. Taya mentioned that I should investigate the difference between red and white horseradish. The red turns out to be a beet and horseradish relish. It is a traditional Ukrainian dish called Tsvikli. Sounds good – must have it sometime.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you ever seen Asparagus this BIG
They grow up to 15in long and 2in wide.
fresh asparagus recipe