Horseradish has an established position ion Polish kitchens. Used not only to prepare traditional Easter horseradish sauce, but also throughout the year: in beetroot and horseradish preserve, often eaten as a side with dinner in the winter time (when fresh salad vegetables are not available). Some regions of Poland are also famous for their horseradish soup, which, I must say was a delight.
The first mention of using horseradish instead of black pepper in Poland comes from 1593. Horseradish was (and still is) considered a spice, rather than a vegetable, due to its pungency and rather spicy flavour and aroma. The root itself, when untouched and uncut, has no aroma. It is only when we start processing it (peeling, cutting, grating) the enzymes from now-broken plant cells break down and produce mustard oil, which can irritate our sinuses and eyes. In the past, not only the fresh horseradish root was used, but also – a powder made with it, which used to add extra depth and flavour to otherwise flat and boring dishes.
At first, horseradish root was cultivated in flower gardens, due to its decorative leaves and small, white flowers. Later on, the spicy properties of the horseradish root were discovered and a plant moved from the flower garden to the vegetable one.
Traditionally, horseradish sauce is served with various types of meats (which is also a case in the UK, horseradish sauce being a much liked side to be served with roast dinner, especially with beef), hams, cold cuts, hard-boiled eggs or jellied fish. I, personally, love a bit of horseradish sauce in my sandwich. It goes very nicely with a slice of good ham and some homegrown garden cress.
Making horseradish sauce is also a good way of using the hard-boiled, beautifully decorated Easter eggs and preventing food waste. Traditionally, in Poland Easter eggs would be eaten with żurek, during festive Easter Sunday breakfast, some will be stuffed and served with mayo, and some will become an integral part of the horseradish sauce.
Horseradish sauce is, next to żurek, a staple Easter food in Poland. Most of the Polish families nowadays buy a ready-made horseradish sauce and add things to it, to make it more fancy.
No wonder people seek help at supermarket shelves though. Grating horseradish is not easy. I can’t even get close to it, my eyes produce ridiculous amounts of tears, as if horseradish grating was the saddest event on earth. I cried, even though I wasn’t the one grating it. Prepare yourself for a little bit of suffering, if you decide to make your own horseradish sauce. But it’s so totally worth it!
HORSERADISH SAUCE WITH EGG
2 small horseradish roots (100g)
2 hard-boiled eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp mayonnaise
lemon juice (squeezed from half a lemon)
HOW TO MAKE?
1. Peel the horseradish root and grate it finely. Be careful if your eyes are very sensitive, horseradish smell is even stronger than onion, so it may make you cry or be a little painful for your eyes. Don’t touch your eyes when grating the horseradish root, it’ll definitely hurt!
2. Once grated, sprinkle it with lemon juice and mix well, the lemon juice will stop the horseradish from darkening in colour. If you feel you’d rather have your horseradish sauce mild, divide the grated horseradish root into two bowls, add boiling water to one (hot water will tune down the spiciness) and add lemon juice to the other. Leave for 20-30 seconds, drain the water and mix both of them together.
3. Finely chop the hard-boiled eggs and mix them with sour cream. Mix the grated horseradish root in, combine well.
4. Season with salt and sugar. Add a teaspoon of mayo.
5. Taste it (be careful, it’s very strong and spicy) and season more if required.
6. It’s best to make the horseradish sauce a day before planned use, to allow all the flavours to blend properly.
7. You can eat the sauce with soup (in Poland we put a small amount of sauce in żurek soup), on a sandwich or with meat.