One trend, three trailblazers

Three ways with: radish

Chefs weigh in on the Instagram-friendly salad vegetable tipped to be the next avocado.

13 August 2018
chefsingredientsrestaurantssaladvegetables

The trend

  • The radish is being dubbed by some (perhaps prematurely) the next avocado. According to analysts Kantar Worldpanel, 890,000 more UK households have bought radishes over the last three months.
  • Multiple varieties of radish, differing in terms of shape, size and pungency, are grown in the UK. They range from the slender, elongated and mild French Breakfast to the round, hot-flavoured Black Spanish.
  • The radish is currently one of the most Instagrammed vegetables. More than 431,000 posts appear with the #radish tag on the social networking site.

While it has been the kitchen gardener's favourite for decades, it's fair to say that the humble radish has not held much sway with the food world at large.

“We're used to the small ones you see in the supermarkets that don't tend to have much flavour,” says Matthew Brown, executive chef at restaurant group Hawksmoor, “but there are so many varieties out there that you can get your hands on year round, and it's an amazingly versatile vegetable.”

Due to the combination of the recent heatwave and the photogenic appeal of this small, globular pink salad vegetable, we are in the midst of a radish revival.

While it is the Cherry Belle radish – actually a member of the brassica (mustard) family – we are most familiar with, there are countless others with different looks and flavours that are making their way onto plates. The winter-harvested black radish, for example, offers a more pungent and peppery taste.

The secret to getting it right with radishes is to serve them on the day they are picked and not be afraid to experiment, adds Brown.

“The obvious thing is to put sliced radish in a salad, and they work there. But you can grate them, or roast them and serve them whole too,” he enthuses.

“We roast them in beef dripping and serve them as a side or a market special. They work so well with our steaks.”

 

The trailblazers 

Matthew Brown, executive chef at Hawksmoor, serves radishes in a pork scratching salad: “This is a salad we're currently serving in the Cooks' Room in Hawksmoor Borough. We turn pig skin that we don't use in the restaurant into pork scratchings, then take some seasonal leaves – we're using mizuna and mustard leaves at the moment – and thinly sliced rainbow radish. We toss everything together with a vinaigrette dressing and serve it as a starter or a side dish. The pepperiness of the radish goes really well with the saltiness of the pork scratching (you've got your salt and pepper). The star of the show is the rainbow radish, though. It's colourful and vibrant and it gives a great crunch.”

 

Tom Holloway, head chef at The Alexandra Hotel and Restaurant in Lyme Regis, makes a dish of roasted summer radishes with whipped feta, brown butter leeks, poppy seeds and mustard frills: “This is a nice light summer dish that has a Mediterranean feel and is perfect for the hot summer weather we’ve been having recently. To make it, I brown butter in a pan, add leeks, thyme and seasoning, and cook until soft. I also blitz feta, garlic, yoghurt, olive oil and lemon juice in a food processor until smooth. Meanwhile, the radish is tossed in some olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted for 10 minutes until tender but still retaining some crunch. To serve, I put a circle of the whipped feta onto a plate, assemble the radishes on top and scatter the leeks over the radishes. It is garnished with radish leaves, some poppy seeds and a drizzle of olive oil. The radish brings a lovely pepperiness and crunch to the dish which compliments the creaminess of the feta, and when combined with a good quality extra virgin olive oil that has its own peppery notes and the bite of the mustard frill salad leaves, it all works really well together.”

 

Scott Smith, chef-patron at Fhior in Edinburgh, serves radishes with rapeseed oil and dulse powder: “This is a dish I'd serve as a light lunch dish or as an alternative to crudités in the bar instead of the more traditional radishes with mayonnaise. I source the best radishes from Phantassie Farm or the Secret Herb Garden in Edinburgh, which I slice then serve with Cullisse Highland rapeseed oil and dulse powder. I forage for the dulse, dehydrate it and then grind it to a powder, which sticks to the oil-dipped radishes. The salty, truffle-like flavour goes well with the pepperiness of the radish. You could also add it to a hollandaise for something a little more luxurious.”

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