Late May: Beetroot & Radishes

More cabbage, but also beetroot. And radishes. I noticed that in last weekend’s Sunday newspaper supplement Nigel Slater was cooking the radishes from his garden. The idea does not appeal to me, but perhaps it tastes nicer than it sounds? I chose to keep mine raw. Some of them were simply sliced and tossed in with the gorgeous lettuce and cucumbers for a fantastic mixed salad. Some were served the French way: with unsalted butter, crusty bread and salt.

Radis au beurre

This is a common nibble to serve with aperitifs. The traditional way to serve this involves the small, elongated variety of radish, which is not what we had in the box. Ours were big and a bit more spicy than the delicate French variety, but the idea still works. Simply scrub the radishes and, if they are large, slice them. Put in a bowl and serve with thick slices of crusty baguette, softened butter and a small dish of coarse sea salt (Maldon is ideal). To eat, butter a slice of bread, sprinkle lightly with salt and top with a radish slice.

Radish spread

I decided to make a spread, which better suited the larger spicier radishes. Grate 1 large, well scrubbed radish into a bowl. Add about 100 g unsalted, softened butter, a large handful finely chopped fresh parsley, a good pinch of fine sea salt, fresh ground black pepper and some ground cumin. Mix well. Let stand, at least 30 minutes, to allow the flavours to marry.

While the butter is standing, prepare the toasts. A baguette is best, sliced thinly on an angle. Heat a ridged griddle pan. When hot, toast the slices in the pan, as many as you can fit at a time. Keep an eye and as soon as you get griddle marks on one side, turn them using tongs. This can be done in advance but not more than an hour or so to keep it fresh tasting.

When ready to serve, spread the toasted bread with the radish butter.

 Radish Tzatziki

The internet is littered with recipes for this, which was quite a novel idea, I thought. For mine, I grated 1 large radish into a glass bowl and stirred in about 300 g thick Greek yogurt. Then I stripped the leaves from 4-5 stalks of mint, chopped these finely and stirred them in, along with a good pinch of fine sea salt and the juice of ½ lemon. The result is a pretty pink dip, which can be used as an accompaniment to grilled meats (really nice with lamb) or simply served with pitta bread. The flavour improves on standing, and this will keep, in the fridge, as long as the yogurt stays fresh, which is usually quite a long time. If kept, stir well before serving.

Beetroot Purée/Spread

 Inspired by my lunch at the Tate Modern restaurant last weekend, I turned a few of my beetroots into this spread. It also served as a companion to the radish tzatziki, which it partnered to perfection. Like the tzatziki, it actually tasted better a few days after I made it. If you are planning on serving this straight away, use only half a chilli or it will be overpoweringly hot, even for the most tolerant of palates.

 3 cooked beetroot
1 small garlic clove
1 green chilli
3 sprigs fresh mint, leaves stripped
1 tsp honey
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more
Small bunch fresh coriander
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
½ sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper

 Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and whizz to obtain a coarse spread. A 1 tbsp or so more oil if necessary for a more spreadable texture, then transfer to a bowl. Taste and adjust. You may want to add more lemon juice, or honey, or balsamic; it depends on personal preference. This keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for quite some time. It is best at room temperature however, so try to allow for this when serving.

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