Ginger is the herbal antidote to sickness, but it is invaluable to the cook. It is extraordinary to think that ginger is so complementary, taste-wise, to fish as well as meat, to all vegetables with the exception of tomatoes, to most fruits – especially with all citrus, apples, pears and rhubarb, and with dark chocolate.
Gingerbread is one of the best of our cakes, and I particularly like its stickiest version. Ginger custard, ginger ice- cream, ginger and pear mousse or soufflés, ginger biscuits, tarts, and steamed puddings – all showcase the versatility of ginger in sweets, but it is almost as useful in a savoury capacity. And best of all – we can buy ginger in each of its forms with ease. I can buy fresh root ginger, powdered ginger and stem ginger in syrup in our brilliant local co-op in Broadford, which is my test for product accessibility throughout the UK.
Salmon with ginger, spring onions and garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
3in/8cm piece of root ginger, skin pared off and the ginger diced finely
18 spring onions, trimmed at either end, sliced on the diagonal – it looks better – into 2in/5cm lengths
2 fat cloves of garlic, skinned and diced very finely
1 teaspoon salt, about 15 grinds of black pepper
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
6 pieces of filleted salmon weighing about 6oz/170g
Heat the olive oil over a gentle to moderate heat in a wide-based sauté pan. Fry the diced ginger, garlic and sliced spring onions, stirring from time to time, for 5 minutes. Stir in the salt, black pepper and lemon rind. Beware of raising the heat too high during this time, the spring onions should not turn colour at all, just soften.
Rub an ovenproof dish with olive oil. Put the pieces of salmon into this, and spoon the ginger mixture over the salmon, as evenly as possible. Bake in a moderate heat, 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, for 15-20 minutes – it is hard to be exact about just how many minutes the cooking will take, because it varies according to the thickness of the fish. When you gently part the thickest part of a piece of salmon, the flakes should look opaque.
Pears with dark chocolate and ginger sauce
Oh, this is wicked indulgence, and enhanced further if eaten with vanilla ice-cream.
Pears with dark chocolate and ginger sauce
6 ripe British grown pears, preferably Conference, or Concord – a type of pear which is a cross between Conference and Comice.
For the sauce
½ pint/285ml single cream
6 pieces of stem ginger, each sliced and diced small, about little fingernail in size
1 tablespoon of the syrup from the stem ginger jar
8oz/225g dark chocolate – I use 75 per cent Lindt, broken into small bits
Warm the cream over a gentle heat, with the tablespoon of ginger syrup, and add the broken pieces of dark chocolate. As the cream heats, the chocolate melts. When the chocolate is all melted, take the pan off the heat and stir in the diced ginger. As you stir, the rather curdled-looking chocolate and cream comes together to form a delicious thick sauce.
Peel the pears – I find a potato peeler the best for this. Slice a sliver from the base of each pear, then slice each pear in half from the stalk down, and carefully scoop out the core from each half. Lay the pear halves cut side down in a wide dish – this looks good in glass.
Pour and spoon the warm chocolate and ginger sauce over the pears in the dish.
Serve warm. This needs no garnish.
Orange tart with ginger pastry and ginger and vanilla cream
For the pastry
4oz/110g butter, hard from the fridge and cut into bits
5oz/140g plain flour
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 rounded teaspoon powdered ginger
Put the above ingredients into a food processor and whiz to the consistency of fine crumbs. Press these firmly over the base and up the sides of a flan dish 9in/22cm diameter, and put this into the fridge for at least an hour. Then bake in a moderate heat, 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, for 20-25 minutes. The pastry sides will slip down towards the base, don’t worry, with a metal spoon scrape them back into place and bake for a further couple of minutes. Then cool the pastry.
For the crème patisserie
1 pint/570ml single cream
5 large egg yolks (keep the whites for making into meringues)
4oz/110g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 pieces stem ginger, diced finely
2 leaves gelatine, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes
4 tablespoons marmalade, if possible shredless, melted
4 oranges, skin sliced off with a sharp serrated knife, and the oranges sliced across, as thinly as possible – the sharpness of your knife will dictate how thinly you can slice the oranges. Carefully remove any pips.
Heat the cream over gentle heat. Beat together the yolks, sugar, vanilla and diced ginger. Pour some hot cream into this mixture, mix well, then stir this into the remaining hot cream in the saucepan.
Cook, stirring continuously, until the cream custard coats the back of your wooden spoon. You mustn’t hurry this, and be prepared for the custard cooking to take about 15 minutes.
When you are satisfied that the custard is sufficiently thick, take the pan off the heat, and lift the soaking gelatine leaves, dripping off all water before dropping them into the hot custard. Stir them in, to melt the gelatine. Cool the custard. When cold, spoon it into the cooled ginger pastry base. Smooth it even, and leave to set.
Arrange the sliced oranges, slightly overlapping, over the set custard. Brush the melted marmalade evenly over the surface of the orange slices.