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Radish dilemmas, kitchen failures, and my new secret weapon

You shouldn't judge a book by its cover, so conventional wisdom goes. Fine, I get that. But don't tell me you haven't splashed out a few quid on veggies on looks alone, just because something interesting caught your eye.

Case in point: these radishes. Check out the colours on those bad boys! I'm only used to radishes that are one colour, so when I was at the market and saw a dash of purple and yellow in with the usual pink, I decided I had to take a big bunch home with me.

Only, what happens when you've picked up your new hot veggie date based on looks alone? Now you've got to work out what to do with them. Not easy.

I'd had a craving for banh mi for a while, so in the absence of any Japanese radish in my fridge, I decided to make a version of the Vietnamese sandwich with the English kind of radish instead. Using it as a stand-in for mooli, I pickled some radishes and carrots, added them and some herbs to some marinated tofu, and bundled the whole lot into a baguette with some mayo.

Here's what happened:

I'll be honest, it wasn't great. No disrespect to the radish though, it subbed for the mooli admirably - it just wasn't the best bit of bread I've ever put in my face.

The baguette was so chewy I had jaw ache by the time I finished the thing. I think the tofu cubes had been taking some tips on density from the bread too - that banh mi left me feeling like I'd had a whole face workout rather than a meal. I should have just tucked into a plate of radishes and left it at that.

Interestingly, I was wondering if radish leaves were edible (who wants to throw away good greens like that?) when I remembered dimly seeing a recipe for radish furikake a while back. I made a dehydrator version to see if I could turn the radish leaves into a nori-sprinkle type topping for rice. I'll let you know how that one goes in future...

Another bulletin from foods-that-looked-pretty-good-but-were-actually-disappointing world came in the form of an attempt to make a savoury vegan clafoutis, having been inspired by this non-vegan version.

The one I made was a mix of asparagus, spring onions and garden peas in a batter of soy milk, flour, flax eggs and cornstarch. Let's just say I got the ratios wrong, and ended up with something of the consistency of rice pudding with some veggies floating around in it. Not so good. (I mean, it tasted fine, and I'll give it another go with a bit more flour and that, but the texture? Yeuch.)

Just when I was starting to think I would never cook something worth sticking in my face again, I hit upon a new pasta dish. How exciting can pasta be, you might ask. Very, I would answer.

All it was was a head of fennel, a white onion and some garlic sweated off, with some chopped tomatoes, pasta, vegan sausages and my new secret weapon, aci biber salçası.

As far as I can work out, biber salçası is pretty much the pepper equivalent of tomato puree - a thick paste of boiled down hot and normal red peppers. It's got some nice, but not overpowering, heat to it, as well as lovely deep flavour. A tablespoon or two added into some pasta sauce left me covertly chasing the last smears of sauce around my plate with a hungry spoon.

I also put the sauce to work in a simple dish of roast veggies (aubergine, new potatoes, cherry tomatoes, onions) and black beans. I smothered the lot in a little stock, a little paprika, and a lot of biber salçası, and baked in the oven for a while. Once it was done in the oven, it got a going over with lime juice and parsley.

I was kind of pleased with the result - it did double duty as a topping for rice, and then as a sandwich filling with some guacamole. If you happen to see some biber salçası near you, I heartily suggest you pick some up - not only will it perk up your food, it can also help ease the sorrows of any recent failed dishes.

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  1. It all looks delicious despite the complications of the first two! I wonder if chickpea flour would give you more of the texture you're looking for in the clafoutis...

  2. So disappointing because that clafoutis LOOKS great. Those radishes- sometimes called Easter egg radishes in the states, get me every time too. I usually just wind up putting them in salads or, worse, stir-fries when the novelty has worn off and they're almost gone. And, don't fret; I too have sometimes finished a sammie with the same, sore-jaw sensation. PS: I've been shamelessly daydreaming about my own Ethiopian-inspired cauliflower banh-mi; give it a look if you have a chance and maybe it will inspire your next foray.

  3. Savory clafoutis is a great idea! I totally know the feeling of getting a face workout rather than eating a meal, which is why I don't often do bread - I'd rather just get right to the delicious filling inside. That said, a good banh mi is great.
    The biber salcasi sounds like avjar, which I looove and eat too much of sometimes.

  4. I must say I am a radish fan, but I'm ashamed to admit that I never thought about making use of the greens. It's terrible that most grocery stores sell them without their tops in the first place! Obviously, I'm not shopping at the right stores, since I've never seen them in such brilliant hues, either.

  5. You know, I've never played with radishes? I really ought to, and while your bahn mi sandwich looks great- I understand the jaw workout as a deterrent. Not pleasant!

    I'm curious about this pepper concoction you mention. I don't believe I've seen in here.

  6. Thanks for this spectacular dish.

  7. I've felt similar compulsions for those radishes! Here they call them "Easter Egg" radishes, which makes them seem even more festive. Sometimes you have to give in and buy produce just because it's pretty!

  8. Such pretty radishes, so tempting to pick some up but I know I'm not a big radish fan. Or maybe I just haven't found the right recipe for them. On the other hand, the biber salçası sounds like a delight and something I'll have to track down. :-)

  9. I'm always stuck for uses for radishes too other than salads although I do sometimes use them as a sushi filling. That pepper paste sounds intruiging!

  10. I'm always surprised how good food that's been dubbed a failure, looks. The ban mi, for example, looks delicious. I like chewy bread — at least I did when I ate bread — but I'll take your word for it that it was unreasonably chewy. You don't have to convince me about the clafoutis, having made my own disgusting sweet one. I think I've purchased a similar pepper product to the one you described, though it had a different name. Great ideas for how to use it with pasta and vegetables.


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