Creamed Horseradish Sauce

I always believe that something you can make yourself is probably going to be better than something you buy – well, apart from fancy sugarcraft things. I am far too ham fisted and clumsy to turn out beautifully sculpted flowers, say.  Actually, anything dainty is probably beyond me, now I think about it.

But I can do all sorts of other things…and horseradish sauce is one of those things. You can buy it of course, but then you are at the mercy of the makers… the heat will be determined by them, as will the level of sharpness. Making it yourself means you can tweak it until you get the perfect sauce for you. I like mine creamy and not too hot, so that’s how I make it.

That’s a horseradish root.

My mother has it growing outside the kitchen door, in a brick edged raised bed. You need to keep the plant confined, otherwise it will be romping happily through your garden (and probably your neighbour’s) without so much as a by-your-leave.  Delicious though horseradish sauce is, I don’t think anyone will be eating pints of it everyday, so keep the plant in a decent pot or a raised bed.

Anyway… how about this for simple?

Now, one thing you should be aware of, that grating horseradish can make you eyes water.. it is so strong the fumes can waft up and before you know it, you have tears streaming down your face.

Bute here’s a trick to help avoid it… freeze it!

I clean the root and pop it in the freezer and grate it frozen. That stops the volatile fumes getting in your eyes.

When I am ready to use it, I get it out and peel the outer skin from maybe an inch or so of the end.

Just grate away.

(You might need to wrap the root in a tea towel because it IS frozen solid and I don’t know about you but my fingers get so very cold) Once you have grated an inch or so, wrap the remainder of the root in cling film and put it back in the freezer ready for the next time.

You’ll need to add at least a teaspoon or so of sugar to the grated root – I use golden caster sugar, as it dissolves quickly.

For sharpness, the juice of half a lemon is just perfect.

And to make it perfectly creamy, a tablespoon of double cream is just the thing

And now?  Just stir it round, mixing it all together.

It’s a good idea to do it an hour or so before hand so all the flavours can blend in and settle down to make….

… a beautifully textured sauce.

Just the thing to serve with beautifully roasted rib of beef…..

Parsley mayonnaise

When I made Ham Hock Terrine I thought there was something missing.

In the end, I decided that I needed just a little something to go with it… something both sharp and savoury, something to moisten the bread… that was what I wanted.

And what better than some delicious mayonnaise, made specifically to go with the lovely terrine?

It’s easy enough to do and I often make a bowlful and flavour it to a specific dish. This time I thought I would make it with parsley and add a few chopped gherkins to liven it up a bit and tie in with the ham hock terrine.

All you need are a couple of eggs, some dijon mustard, some salt, some oil (olive oil is very strong so plain vegetable oil should make up the majority of the oil used) You’ll need vinegar – either white wine or cider vinegar would be good in this – some parsley and some gherkins.

First of all, then separate two eggs and put the yolks into a reasonably sized bowl. Add a pinch of salt and a quarter of a teaspoon of mustard… stir them together and then start whisking

Whisk it good and hard (an electric whisk is a godsend if you have one… otherwise, think of it as replacing a work out in the gym).. this is the hardest  bit of the job and to be frank, it isn’t that hard!  After this it is all plain sailing.

When everything is smooth and whisked well, add a drop or two of oil and start again, whisking

And it suddenly starts to come together – look, you can see it thickening.

Now you can add the oil in greater quantities

And it’s off and away… just keep adding more oil until you get the amount you need. Those two egg yolks are all you need to make pints of mayonnaise – if that is what you want. Just add more oil… it all thickens up as you whisk.

It’s not enough just to use oil though – the flavour needs a touch of sharpness to bring the flavours together. Sometimes I use lemon juice but this time I wanted cider vinegar.

Add a teaspoon or so of vinegar – taste it and see if has sharpened everything up. Whisk it round to a smooth and glorious sauciness.

Once you have enough, all you have to do is flavour it the way you want it.

Start chopping the parsley and some gherkins and add them to the mayo

Taste again… the parsley adds a sort of rich, slightly bitter flavour and those little bits of gherkin run through it adding a lovely sweet and sharp bite.

Really, for maybe ten minutes work (and not hard work, either) you can have a delicious, fresh and tasty mayonnaise that goes exactly with whatever you are cooking. 

You’ve got a couple of eggs, haven’t you?  There’s some oil in the cupboard….. go on….

You know you’ll love it.

Chilli Oil

I know we only have a very small balcony and it is incredibly windy up at the top of our building,but I have managed to grow things up here.

This year the chillies have been fantastic and even though it is now getting towards the end of November there were still chillies ripening

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It really was time I did something with them before they spoiled on the plant.

I have a whole load of them ready to be stuffed with cheese and wrapped with bacon but even I, with my chilli addiction, can’t eat that many.

One of the other things I do is make chilli oil, using vegetable oil, so that I can cook with it. It just gives a little nip of something to whatever I am frying. And, oh, the difference it makes to a fried egg!

Of course, it also means that you have chillies available to cook with – softened, admittedly, due to their immersion in oil, but at least you have some.


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So, harvest the chillies…..

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Aren’t they beautiful? On a cold and wet November day they really are a bright spot.

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Put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them and squoosh them about for a few seconds then drain them

It helps to slash them so they will sink in the oil…. just remember if you do this that you must be careful with your fingers afterwards.

I know everyone always says this… and I know that everyone usually forgets and then gets a shock when they stick their fingers somewhere. Well, I have said it so don’t complain when you rub your eyes.

Put your chillies in a jar and pour oil over them

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And that’s it.

You’ll be surprised how quickly the oil takes on the essence of chilli and very pleased with how many things you can add use the oil in…..a spoonful when you are making mayonnaise, for example, really sparks it up.  And it is, you’ll probably agree, a particularly pretty jar to have in your kitchen.

What more can you ask for – a multitasking end product? Useful AND pretty.

Mayo… mmmmmmmayo

It’s always handy to have the makings of mayonnaise in the house. In just a few minutes you can have a lovely thick, tasty dressing that you can modify in all sorts of ways to match whatever you want to use it with.

 I made fish and couscous and wanted something to tie it all together. I know that Bear would have been happy with tomato sauce but I wanted something nice. Lemon mayo, I thought, would be just the thing. So….

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Two eggs were separated (the whites can go into something else tomorrow) and the yolks put into a jug.

Stir a sparse teaspoon of mustard (very, very sparse if you are using English mustard as that is hot, maybe just a touch… but I was using Dijon which is mild) into the yolk and blend it. Add a pinch of salt and then, if you are feeling energetic, whisk it fiercely. I stuck the balloon whisk on the end of my blender and whizzed away.

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You can see it start to thicken slightly and change colour a bit

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And then you trickle in some oil. Use a flavourless oil, like sunflower, rather than olive oil as that can make it taste just a bit too strong. I have saved the oil from jars of roasted peppers or sunblush tomatoes (you know how there’s always loads left and it seems such a waste to bin it) and used that before as an addition to the sunflower oil. That just gives it an extra taste dimension – useful if you are making it for a specific dish.

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Suddenly it thickens even more and the colour lightens…

I wanted a lemony mayonnaise to go with the fish so I added the juice of a lemon

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Whisk, whisk, whisk! Add more oil and maybe a couple of teaspoons of white wine vinegar. Taste it to see if you have the flaovouring right.

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You’d be surprised how much mayonnaise you can make if you keep adding the oil. In one of my favourite books, ‘ The Curious Cook’ Harold McGee experiments with just how much oil can be emulsified with just one yolk. Make as much as you need.. just keep whisking and adding the oil slowly.

You end up with a wonderfully thick, unctuous, deliciously flavoured mayonnaise. Less than ten minutes (I made it while the fish cooked) and you have something to be proud of. This was lemony and savoury and oh-so-right for that fish.

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In fact, it was so nice that the Bear went and got an extra spoonful and he’s not a mayonnaise lover. Mmmmmmmm…