Mention Spring, and we confidently cite lamb, chocolate eggs, tulips and of course daffodils, in fact anything yellow becomes the symbol of re-birth, re-warmth and re-living, as we freshen up the home, shaking away the dusty rugs of Winter.
This is why I remember being taken aback one Spring in Paris when my mother-in-law brought to the table a surprising triplet – radishes, sea salt and unsalted butter.
She proceeded to dab a tiny piece of butter on the radish and then dipped it into the sea-salt, before popping it into her mouth. As was my usual habit at this naive, youthful time of life, I simply copied. Wow, what an extraordinary combination – sweet and crunchy radish – at its best in Spring – not too hot, bitter and over-bearing, blended with a tiny amount of butter and salt. From that moment onwards, I now anticiptate eagerly the Spring-time arrival of the first radishes.
The radishes should be young, fresh and small. When buying radishes get them with the leafy tops still attached. Not only are they good to eat in their own right, but they are a valuable indicator of freshness. The leaves start wilting as soon as the radish is picked, so if they’re still looking pretty perky, the chances are that the radishes beneath will be full of life, too.
As well as eaten whole with butter and salt as an apetiser or aperitif nibble, radishes also make a wonderful component in a spread of salads, their leaves can be added to soups and they can also be roasted and cooked.
When I find myself with a really crisp, juicy, fresh bunch of radishes, though, I simply cannot resist devouring them whole the French way, with butter and salt.
I did find a recipe for Glazed Radishes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall which sounds interesting. Now Spring is here, I may give this a go…
Glazed radishes (V)
A nice way to treat radishes that are not quite as super-fresh as you’d like them to be. It makes a great side dish for a roast. Serves three to four.
250g radishes, trimmed and washed
1 tsp caster sugar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 150ml stock
Chopped parsley, to serve
Melt the butter over a medium heat in a deep frying pan or a saucepan large enough to take the radishes in a single layer. Add the radishes, sugar, a good pinch of salt and enough stock to come halfway up the radishes. Bring to a simmer and cook gently, uncovered, giving the pan a shake or a stir every now and then, until the radishes are just tender but still with some resistance to the bite – around 15 minutes. Remove the radishes with a slotted spoon, transfer to a warmed dish and keep warm.
Raise the heat under the pan and rapidly boil the remaining liquid until reduced to a thick glaze (it may well need little or no extra cooking). Return the radishes to the pan, turn to coat them in the glaze, season again and serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.