Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The radish

Carved into roses or sliced into salads (when cleaning out the fridge drawer reveals a long-forgotten bag of them, lurking near the aging celery), the radish has a less than flamboyant reputation. Nutritionally it is no superstar – no fashionable ‘Superfood’ tag for this humble veg - but as a member of the cancer-fighting cruciferous family (think cabbage, broccoli) it has its uses. My dog-eared copy of Healing with Whole Foods lists the clearing of sinuses and soothing of sore throats among its (few) attributes. Pedestrian qualities perhaps, but admirable nonetheless. More importantly, radishes possess a crisp, peppery bite that’s perfect for raw nibbling. Pretty and pink, too.

Still, there’s that sulphurous smell unique to the cabbage family to contend with. Masking that pungency is the key. A quick and easy pickle of thin radish slices finished with a dressing of sesame oil and dark, complex tamari is my current solution.

The result? Crimped, frilly edges and a moreish balance of sweet, sour and salty. Make them part of a sushi platter, arranged next to your pink pickled ginger and obligatory swirl of wasabi. A small heap is a welcome digestive aid for a generous, Chinese-style banquet. Less conventional ways work marvellously, too – tossed with a few handfuls of salad leaves and similarly cut paper-thin rounds of carrot, the tamari and agave dressing will provide all the seasoning required. Carrots, I have discovered, themselves fridge drawer lurkers, stand up well to this method of pickling, as do small, sweet turnips. Look for perky green leaves still attached to your radishes as a sure sign of freshness - wash well and blanch briefly before chopping and using as you would any other gorgeous, health-giving green. Unthinkably easy, this recipe is also unexpectedly delicious.

Kylie Kwong’s pickled radishes

Though it is hardly a chore to slice six or eight radishes, a mandoline does make light work of the job, but only if you are confident that neither your knuckles nor your fingertips will end up on the other side of the blade. Mine is a cheap, plastic thing I’ve had for years and it’s perfect. Recipe adapted, slightly, from Simple Chinese Cooking.

6-8 red radishes, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of sea salt

1 tablespoon of tamari or shoyu
1 tablespoon of agave syrup or brown sugar
½ teaspoon of dark (toasted/roasted) sesame oil
A good pinch of chilli powder

Toss the radish slices with the sugar and salt and leave to marinate for 30 minutes.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Drain and gently squeeze the radishes, draining away the pickling mixture, then drizzle with the dressing.

How do you use radishes?


Anh said...

To think about it, I rarely use radish in my cooking (except for daikon, of course). Your refreshing salad is a perfect way to use these pretty looking radishes, I believe.

And I do miss my kitchen, the slow cooking process. I spend so much time lately outside the kitchen. Not much cooking done (the sort I want to write about). But hey, getting myself 5 serves of veg for everyday now is a good thing, right? :)

Christina said...

I have a confession to make: I don't eat radishes. I've never liked them. This recipe may be the solution to that problem though--I'll have to give it a try.

Guess what is on my roster of meals this week? Yup, the chard and feta pie. My chard is lush and I can't wait to make that dish--I've been waiting for it for months!

Johanna said...

oh dear I haven't used radishes since making radish roses at home economics at school - it is a vegetable I sometimes wonder about using but I am sure if I bought them they would be fridge lurkers - but I like the look of your sauce

Ran said...

i love radishes. we used to grow them when i was a kid and mum would cut a few up, and serve on the table with every meal!

These dasy i just chuck them into any salad. they are refreshing and add a nice peppery tang. Your salad souns nice i have never tried pikling them

Suganya said...

I find raw red radishes are pleasanter than cooked ones. Finely chopped and seasoned with salt and lemon juice is my fav of making radish salad.

kathryn said...

Lovely, lovely Lucy. I'm so boring and traditional with radishes. I put them on salads. That's it. But I do love the sharp, peppery crunch.

This looks great and also reminds me I've been reading about people roasting radishes. My first reaction was what wild, craziness is this? But I think it's time to expand my radish repertoire. Thanks for posting this gorgeous looking (and sounding) radish pickle.

glutenfreeforgood said...

Hi Lucy -- I love your blog and am thankful anotheroutspokenfemale reminded me that I had been here before. I wander aimlessly and forget where I've been, so it was a nice treat to run into you again.

Radishes? Oh, but they are little super foods. I won't go into bile-flowing detail, but they help keep the gallbladder and liver healthy, which are quite under-appreciated as far as organs go. In ancient Greece (BC), radishes were held in such high esteem they were carried on golden platters as veggie sacrifices to the gods. (Much to the relief of animals and virgins.)

I love your photos and will definitely try this radish "salad" of yours. My liver thanks you in advance.


Patricia Scarpin said...

Lucy, radishes remind me so much of my mom! She used to make radish salad every week. Pretty simple, just olive oil, a splash of vinegar or lime juice, salt, pepper.
I have seen a radish open sandwich in March's Bon Appetit and found it really interesting!

Rosa said...

Dipped into fleur de sel and with tons of butter on pain de campagne. Trust the French to come up with something gloriously unhealthy to do with radishes!

winedeb said...

Need to satisfy that afternoon "crunch craving"? I usually do and very often a radish is where I head. Actually I usually have a couple. I love to dip them in humus for an afternoon filler. I also have just started cooking them. Sauted with kale or even in stir frys, they are tasty. One more way I like them are sliced atop a heavily buttered piece of french bread with salt. I definately will be trying your recipe as the ingredients sound so flavorful!
I have about 7 radishes coming up in one of my containers out on the deck. I have never grown them before, so we will see if they work in a container garden!
Great photos Lucy and a fun post:)

mari said...

I love radishes, but I didn't start liking them until I came to Europe, ten years ago. Do these stay a bit crisp after marinating? I can never find pickled radish for my pad thai, would this recipe work for me?

Wendy said...

1) That first picture is fabulous. Love the light.

2) You mention making radish roses. Can you actually do that? I've tried and tried and failed and failed.

3) I want a mandolin too.

4) Love Kylie Kwong's book. The soups are spectacular.

&, finally, 5)Yum,

Lisa said...


We certainly seem to have more than a few things in common. I too own a copy of "Healing with Whole Foods" and it's a fantastic book!

As always, you share some beautiful pictures with your readers here!

Lucy said...

Anh, you know I miss your kitchen, too. Five serves of veg is, as you suggest, hard enough to do anyway. I hope that things settle down for you soon!

Christina! I am horrified...hardly! My method is usually to buy a bunch, use the leaves and leave the remainder to fester away in the bottom of the fridge. Thus this pickle - it's really good, I must say. Can I have a photo of your chard plants? Mine were all eaten by possums (bastards...) while we were away!

Johanna, I have never been deft enough with a knife to make them - perhaps you could give a blogging demonstration?!!

Ran, I think you're onto something there - growing them at home would be the best way to love them, fresh and crisp from the soil.

Beautiful suggestion Suganya, simple but very elegant. Shall chop away this afternoon!

Kathryn, I'd never have thought to roast them! I have braised them in a knob of butter, a little stock and white wine but I wasn't as amazed by the texture as I'd hoped I would be. Roasting...shall try it out and then we can compare notes.

Melissa, I knew someone would 'come through with the goods'! I do recall reading about ancient sources revering them so much but didn't know about their liver and gall bladder qualities. Having gone without alcohol for two weeks as of today, I'm quite keen to feed my liver whatever it desires! Glad you found me again...she's a bit of alright, that AOF.

Patricia, I'm off to check out that Bon Appetit article. Lime and radish - that's a beautiful combinaton. God, I'm so glad I asked the question - all sorts of wonderful responses!

Rosa, that's sensational! Ah, but you see I tend toward that sort of thinking myself...just imagining pale creamy butter, crunchy salt...gorgeous.

Deb - hummus is a great idea, so is chucking them in stir fries. I really am thrilled with the wisdom of you guys (do I sound surprised? Hardly - such a knowledgeble, generous bunch you are). Let me know how your potted ones come along - and do make sure you eat those leaves!

Hi Mari, no they don't really stay crisp after the process, quick though it is. They retain some toothsomeness, but their crunch is quite diminished. You know, I do think that they would be delicious with your Pad Thai, though.


1) Thanks - hot days and intense light at this time of the year result in those dark shadows. They're fun to play with.

2)No, but Johanna can. I'm hoping she'll show us. I can draw and paint, but man, anything 3-D and I am useless...

3) Potato gratins etc will be so delicious if you have a mandoline and it's an amazingly useful thing.

4) I think I love her - the tofu dishes are so sexy, too...

5) Yay!!

Lisa, we's kismet, I think. Much of the book is frightening in its scope - all the parasite stuff is waaayyy beyond me (and really, I don't want to know about parasites in my system...) but nothing is more useful on my bookshelf!

Lizzie said...

I love, love, love your first picture of the radishes. It's eerie and otherwordly and perfect.

I've never been a fan of the actual radishes themselves, but never thought of pickling them. Very interesting. Will let you know how it turns out...

Susan said...

It is a mystery why my mandoline remains in the box it was shipped in two years ago. I think I am afraid of it.

Not afraid of radishes, though. I can eat nest after nest of shredded daikon and handfuls of salted disks, but have never thought to dress them up much.

Love the luminosity of those shots.

Wendy said...

PS Just remembered a Jane Grigson idea. She suggests serving a massive pile of cress circled with sliced radishes and served with bread, butter and salt.
I can't wait to try it out this summer. It sounds so fresh.

Lucy said...

Lizzie, please do let me know how you go!

Susan, if I, one of the clumsiest of cooks, can master the thing, I dare say someone as patient as your good self would have little trouble. I found a beautiful daikon a few months ago with the most glorious, snappy fresh greens. It was a thing of real beauty.

Jane Grigson - Wendy, I reckon she's a goldmine of recipes. It sounds really cooling on a warm summer's evening.

Johanna said...

Lucy - I wish my memory was good enough to even remember if my radish roses worked - it is all a blur :-)

Sophie said...

Yum, looking forward to these coming back!

I like variations on David Hall's radish and bean salad recipe:

Nora B. said...

Hi Lucy,

Clearing of sinuses, you say? I should have some, then. I have never bought radishes before, but have eaten them in salads. I like the idea of pickling it, it looks so pretty & crinkly.

I hope that you are having a fab weekend.


Anonymous said...

You never fail to inspire me - I have a bunch of radishes in the kitchen ready to go!

Kylie Kwong - often walked past her restaurant when in Sydney, but have a slight hesitation about going in. Usually I end up in Bills, or that quirky little upstairs Thai place just down the road, with awful service but brilliant food.

kazari said...

Lovely photos! I don't often buy radishes, but i think i will this week.

winedeb said...

I did not know about eating the leaves! Should I make a salad or cook them ????

Ricki said...

Well, I've never been a bit fan of radishes, but for this recipe, I'm going to make an exception! This looks delicious. I am filing this recipe away for summer and can't wait to give it a go.

Lucy said...

Johanna, no worries...I was just being cheeky anyway...

Will check it out Sophie.

Hi Nora - sinuses blocked, eh? What a shame - right in the middle of all your work! How rude is that?!! I had a lovely, computer-free long weekend. It was divine not to have the 'puter on.

Thanks vegeyum - you know, I've never eaten in Billy Kwong either, and I think you'd be right to hesitate as I don't think there's a whole lot of veg options on the menu. Bill's? I went for the first time on Christmas Eve last year and frankly, I can't see what all the fuss is about...

HI Kazari - do give them a try!

Deb, I'd cook the leaves, as they're a little prickly to the tongue when raw. Then wring them dry and chop them up - just like beetroot tops, they are full of goodness!

Me neither Ricki, so I hope you do try them out. Nothing could be simpler to make.

Ricki said...

Thanks, Lucy. And of course, I meant "a big fan." (Must learn to leave comments when I am actually awake!!)

Callipygia said...

sliced radishes with a bit of ume paste mixed into rice wine vinegar! Beautiful color.

Lucy said...

Ricki - I didn't pick that up...must learn to read properly, me!

Calli - that's exactly what my lunch will be. God, am addicted to ume...

Lore said...

What a great idea! Just made a radish salad the other day for a roundup but that's pretty much how I use radished: sliced in green salads an yet I never seem to get bored...still you got me interested.

kathryn said...

Lucy - finally made your pickle, but with white turnips. A whole meal inspired by you in fact. Took your advice and tried something new (the turnips). Converted them into your pickle. And then I made some rice in coconut milk, very loosely based on your lemongrass & ginger dish. Added the turnip tops to the rice. Then two boiled eggs on top. Delicious.

The little turnips are a revelation. I don't have a mandolin, so all the slightly thicker slices "had" to be eaten. Raw it's gorgeous and then in your pickle it's even better.

Am distressed it took me so long to make this - I've been missing out!

Lucy said...

Kathryn - I'm soooo pleased. And honoured, too. Really, I am.

They're such an unexpected flavour. I make them all the time now, especially when I look at the veg drawer and think some things are looking a little sad and sorry...they perk up a treat. Turnips are so delicious right now and to pair them with coconut milk? Brilliant.