Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana, syn. Cochlearia armoracia) is a root vegetable that is part of the same family as mustard, wasabi, broccoli and cabbage. As with the other plants in this family (Brassicadeae), the aromas and flavours tend to become more apparent once it is chopped, mashed, or grated. The root is especially pungent (a defence mechanism against animals) if chopped and used immediately. Over time, oxygen and light will decrease this and so horseradish sauces are generally milder. Acclaimed in western cooking to go with Sunday roasts, it is also used as a wasabi in many of the current wasabi brands due to the scarcity of the wasabi plant and their overlapping taste profiles. It can also be combined with other root vegetables in pickles or fermented recipes with cabbage and radish e.g. kimchi.
As with many of the other spices, horseradish has also been used for medicinal purposes. It is claimed to have positive anti-bacterial and blood pressure lowering effects, however, while the clinical research in humans is generally lacking, the culinary advantage will take precedent.
Horseradish is traditionally made into a sauce to serve with strong flavoured meats or strong flavoured fish such as tuna, smoked trout and mackerel. Once grated it can either be mixed with cream, yoghurt or hummus to make a sauce. Take care when grating horseradish as the vapours can sting your eyes. Enjoy the horseradish sauce below as a condiment served with roast beef or lightly smoked trout, or stir it into mashed potatoes for a tangy flavour:
Pink horseradish sauce
2 cups peeled and coarsely chopped horseradish root
½ cup peeled and coarsely chopped beetroot
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (the longer you wait to add the vinegar, the stronger the sauce will be)
Blend all ingredients together in a food processor until smooth. Store the mixture in a clean glass jar in the fridge. The sauce will keep for about 3 weeks, but the potency will diminish over time.