What to do with…GINGER

HenryVIIIHenry VIII is said to have used ginger as a medicine for its qualities, as outlined by Culpeper, the herbalist, 150 years later:  ‘Ginger helps digestion, warms the stomach, clears the sight and is profitable for old men; it heats the joints and is therefore useful against gout’.

ginger

fresh root ginger

Ginger has an impressive record in treating many ailments:  it is said to help poor circulation and to cure flatulence and indigestion.  It is taken as a drink for coughs, nausea and influenza.  In the East, ginger is chewed to ward off evil spirits.  It is considered to be a cure for travel sickness and the essential oil is used in perfumery.

CULTIVATION

red ginger

red ginger plant

The ginger plant is an upright tropical plant, which is propagated by dividing the rhizomes.  It grows to about 3 feet, with elegant lance-shaped leaves and yellow flowers tinged with purple or red flowers.  Harvesting takes place 9-10 months after planting and in many parts of the world, this is still done by hand.  Much of the crop is washed, sun dried and then ground to a powder for domestic and commercial use.

CULINARY USE

gingerbreadThe essential oil is used in commercial flavorings.  Fresh root ginger is extremely popular in a variety of stir-fry or curry dishes.  It is used in different techniques; slices can be added to marinades or in cooking and removed before serving.  Grated, chopped or crushed ginger is used in pastes or braised dishes.  Finely shredded ginger can be added to fried or stir-fried dishes or it may be used raw in salads.  Pickled or preserved ginger is served as appetizers or used in savory cooking.  It is also used in Western baking, for example, in traditional ginger breads, cakes and biscuits such as ginger snaps.  The spice is also used in chutneys, pickles, jams and sweet preserves as well as drinks such as ginger beer, ginger ale and ginger wine.

TYPES OF GINGER

Fresh Root Ginger   Look for plump, silvery skinned pieces, which are called ‘hands’.  Young ginger has smoother, thin skin firmly clinging to the firm and quite heavy root.  Older ginger has thicker, papery skin which sits more loosely on the root.  Avoid ginger that is wrinkled, softened or very light in weight.

Ground Ginger  Pale sand-colored spice widely used in baking.

crystallized ginger

crystallized ginger

Crystallized Ginger  Preserved by cooking in syrup, then dried and rolled in sugar.

Pickled Ginger  A savory condiment used in Oriental cooking.  Chinese pickled ginger is light, sweet and sour and quite hot in flavor.  Sweet red pickled ginger is slightly tangy, but mainly sweet as it is candied.  Japanese pickled ginger is more delicate than Chinese pickles.

Preserved or Stem Ginger  Traditionally packed into decorative, bulbous Chinese ginger jars.  The plump, tender young ginger is peeled and preserved in syrup, making it sweet and fairly spicy.

COOKING TIPS

Use a little crushed ginger in marinades for pork steaks or chops.

Try adding a little finely grated fresh or chopped crystallized ginger to fruit puddings using rhubarb, plus or pears.  Can even be used in crumbles or pastry pies.

ginger-tea

ginger tea

Make a soothing tea when you’re feeling under the weather.  Drop a slice or two into a mug and add hot water and honey along with a cinnamon stick and a slice of lemon or orange or add a slice to some lemon tea.  Ginger tea is also a natural remedy for menstrual cramps and helps relieve stress.  It encourages normal blood circulation, strengthens immunity and reduces inflammation.

Minced fried ginger can be added to Asian dishes just as you would fried garlic to Italian dishes.  It takes ordinary rice to a new level!

Got an overload of ginger?  You can freeze fresh ginger.  Simply freeze the whole root in a resealable plastic bag.  You can then use it without thawing.  Using a sharp knife, peel off the skin for the amount needed and then use a microplane to grate what you need.  Don’t leave the whole root out to thaw as it will become soft and mushy when thawed.

Hmmm….I may just have to go make myself a cup of ginger tea…..

♥  Terri  ♥

I’m Taking a Break

Good Day dear readers!

Now I know I’ve been AWOL again, but I have been SO busy over the past couple of weeks that I’ve barely had time to check any emails, let alone do any blogging.

And why, do you ask, have I been so busy??

Well let me tell you…you see, this weekend, Sunday to be precise, I’ll be at a rather big event going on in Margate at the Winter Gardens.  It’s World Food Day, presented by Thanet Fairtrade Initiative.

I’ve been so busy making chutney and preserves, that I seriously had to take a break today.  I did make pickled onions this morning and made up some jar labels, but I’m just really tired and decided to take today off as I’ve been in the kitchen practically non-stop for the past week or two.  I’ve been making 2-3 batches of different things each day, including brownies and bread dip mix.  I still have to make some whoopie pies and a loaf of bread to use for the samples of the bread dip mix.  Yes, I make the bread for that.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, but everyone needs a little time off every now and then.  I figure if I take it easy today, then I’ll be fresh and raring to go tomorrow!

Unfortunately, because I’ve been busy with cooking, my housework has been a bit neglected and I’ve just kept up with the things that really need to be done such as cleaning the bathroom and doing laundry.  Gotta have clean clothes to wear and I hate a dirty bathroom!

This past weekend, we did manage to get out on Sunday and head down to town for the Broadstairs Food Festival.  I didn’t bring the camera this time, but you can see and read all about it here from last year.  I had said that I would have liked to have been one of the stall holders here, but with next week’s event, I just couldn’t.  I don’t know if I’ll ever do the Broadstairs festival; you have to set up for all three days that it runs and it’s not that cheap to set up.  It also seemed a bit disappointing this year as there didn’t seem to be as many stall holders as last year.  We did buy some things; almost the same as last year…some venison sausages, the same blue cheese (it was really good!) and a bag of jasmine blossom tea.  We also picked up some Italian cookies for my mother-in-law.

So that’s about all for the foodie things.  If you live in the area and you’re coming to the World Food Day next weekend, mention you read my blog here and I’ll give you a 10% discount on your purchase!

See you there!

♥  Terri  ♥

It’s Never Too Early….

…to make Christmas Chutney!

Yes folks, it’s getting near that time again when we all go crazy trying to get gifts bought and wrapped, get the house decorated, preparing for guests to arrive and preparing all the food and cooking our favorite meal for Christmas dinner, whatever it may be.

And how many of us wish it were all over before it even arrives?  We all look forward to the holidays, but we’re completely exhausted by the time all is said and done because of all the preparation we need to do before the big day.

The best thing to do is try and get ahead of the game.  I know it’s all easier said than done, but I have found that it really helps.  If you do a lot of baking for Christmas, get as much of it as you can done early.  Making cookies?  Make up all the dough, wrap it up in plastic wrap, label it and stick it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer.  Then all you need to do is take it out the night before and put it in the fridge to thaw so you can bake the next day.

Having a few people over for appetizers and cocktails doesn’t have to put you in a frenzy.  Try to serve things that you can make and freeze and then just pop in the oven to bake on the day.  I make an Italian Rustic Pork Pie compliments of Nigella Lawson which can be made ahead of time and frozen.  I also make sausage rolls, samosas, mini mince pies and other pastry delectables that can be frozen and baked later.

Feel free to cheat a bit if you really don’t have the time to make your own pastry.  After all, I just read that Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood both use store-bought pastry to save time, so if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you!  However, if you have the time, then go for it and make your own.

I admit, for the smaller things like the sausage rolls, I do use the store-bought pastry, but for the Pork Pie, I make the pastry myself.

But this post is about chutney….Christmas Chutney.  For those of you not in the know, chutney is pretty much a mixture of fruit and veg (usually onions), sugar, vinegar and spices.  It should really be made and then left to mature for at least a month or more before eating.  It can be eaten as an accompaniment to most meats, hot or cold and also strong cheeses.

This Christmas Chutney is another recipe compliments of Nigella Lawson which was in one of the weekend magazines last year.  If you would like to try your hand at this, it really is rather easy.  It’s just a matter of prepping all the fruit and onions and throwing everything into a big pot and letting it cook.  This makes a good bit so make sure you have plenty of jam jars with vinegar-proof lids or Kilner jars.  You’ll need about 9 X 250ml/9floz jars.  Yeah, it sounds like a lot, but homemade goodies make great gifts!  You may get more or less jars depending on their size.

CHRISTMAS CHUTNEY

(makes approximately 2.2 litres)

750g/1 lb 10oz (prepared weight) cooking apples cored, peeled and chopped small

2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped

500g/17½oz fresh or frozen cranberries (thawed if frozen)

250g/9oz soft pitted dates, roughly chopped

zest and juice of 2 oranges

400g/14oz caster/fine sugar

1½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

500ml/17oz white wine vinegar

2 tsp Maldon salt or 1 tsp table salt

FIRST, PREPARE YOUR JARS.

Jars should be sterilized before having foodstuff put in them.  Wash your jars and lids well in hot, soapy water and rinse well.  Put the jars and lids on a paper-towel lined roasting pan and sit in a cold oven.  When you have about 30-45 minutes left of cooking time on the chutney, turn on the oven to about 120°C/250°F and leave the oven on until the chutney is done.  You want to be putting hot chutney into hot jars.  Fill up to the top, leaving about 1/2 inch of head room.  Seal immediately and leave to cool.

TO MAKE THE CHUTNEY…

Put the prepared apples, onions, cranberries and dates into a very large pan and give them a good stir around.

Zest the oranges over the top, then squeeze in the juice.

Add the sugar and spices, then pour over the vinegar and sprinkle on the salt.

Now give it all a good stir, turn on the heat, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and let it bubble, uncovered, for about an hour or until you have a pulpy mass.  Give it a stir occasionally. (mine took about an hour and 15 min).

Spoon into your hot jars and seal down tight.  As they cool, you should hear the ‘pop’ of the lid indicating the vacuum seal has been made.  If they haven’t popped once they have cooled, press down the ‘button’ on the center of the lid and it should stay down.  If it doesn’t stay down, it may mean that you didn’t put the lid on tight enough and air has gotten in.  You can just store these in the fridge rather than the cupboard or tighten the lid more and heat in a water bath for about 10-15 minutes.*(see below)

MAKE AHEAD TIP

Make the chutney at least two months before using or giving as gifts.  The longer it has to mature, the better.  Store in a cool dark place for up to 18 months.  Once opened, store in the fridge and use within a couple of months.

*Boiling water bath canning involves packing jars with food, completely covering the jars with water, heating the water to boiling (212°F/100°C), and processing for 5 to 85 minutes, depending on the food product, style of pack, and jar size. Boiling removes the oxygen remaining in the jar, which helps to form a tight seal between the lid and the rim. The heat used for this method of canning is sufficient to kill vegetative bacterial cells found in the food.

So What’s Been Going On?

Good Day, Dear Reader!

Now I realise I haven’t been around for a few days, (with the exception of the Sunday Song posts) but I’ve been a bit busy having things taken care of around the house here.

I get lots of light coming in from the windows and sky light

First off, all last week I spent giving the kitchen a THOROUGH cleaning.  I have a fairly large kitchen, so it can take a while to get through it all.  On Monday, after cleaning the bathroom in the morning, I started in the kitchen with the upper portion, armed with my stepladder and a wet rag, wiping down the molding that goes all the way around where the wall meets the ceiling, along with the top of the fridge and the top of any cabinets I could reach.  I also got a bit of a workout as I had to keep getting up and down off the stepladder to keep rinsing the rag out. (burn, calories, burn!)

The next day, I tackled the mid section, working on the cabinets, walls and windows and sill and removed everything from the counters (a bit at a time) and wiped everything down…whew!

On Wednesday, I worked on the lower half, did a good vacuuming and sweeping and then a mopping of the floor.  After doing all of that, I didn’t want to mess up my kitchen by having to cook, but alas, I did…

Thursday was taken up by vacuuming the rest of the house and finally getting a bit of a rest afterwards!

Remember me mentioning that the fan oven on my range had broken?  Well the guy was finally here this past Friday to fix it and, yay, it’s fixed!  My only gripe was that he called and said he would be here between 11:00 and 2:00 and didn’t show up until after 2:30!   I can now bake my bread properly again.  It just didn’t seem to be coming out the way it should in the other oven; it wasn’t rising correctly and it wasn’t cooking all the way through…yuck.

Are you still with me, because I’m probably boring the hell out of you!  I’m very sorry, but I don’t have much else to mention right now as I haven’t really baked or cooked anything of great interest lately.  Besides, this blog is about anything and everything that goes on in my kitchen, so why not just talk about cleaning it and posting some pictures of it?

On Monday, we had two of our windows fixed.  One in the bedroom; the handle broke off a while ago and then one in the kitchen; the handle didn’t break off, but it was worn and wouldn’t open.  Now, they’re both fixed and all windows can be opened again!  The kitties don’t have to fight now over who gets the window upstairs. 🙂

Yesterday I finally got back to making things for the market which is a week from Sunday.  Chef P got me some blackberries so I decided to make something different, so made Blackberry Chutney.  You really can’t taste chutney right away to see how it is as it’s one of those things that needs to mature for a bit before you eat it.  Today, I’m in the middle of making Orange Marmalade…

Chef P is taking tomorrow off and we’re heading down to Broadstairs for the Olympic Torch Relay.  It will be going right past Mummy-in-law’s flats, so we’ll be up on her balcony with a great view!  Sorry to say, I’m not that interested in actually watching the Olympics themselves, but watching the torch go by is an historic event and want to be part of it.

So that’s what’s going on right now in Terri’s Kitchen.  I figured a slightly terribly boring post was better than no post at all, right?  (Humor me.)

UK Food and Pickled Onions

When I first came here to the UK, I was a bit, how shall I say, disappointed in some of the foods available.  There were items I was so used to getting in the states that it would frustrate me when I couldn’t find them over here, not even a reasonable replacement.  Two items that spring to mind are chocolate chips and Cup-a-Soup.

Both of these are available here, but not in the size or selection I would like.  Chocolate chips for example are available in small packets with weights of 100g.  That’s about 3 1/2 oz.

I wanted to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies for humans, not Barbie dolls!

I had to buy four bags to even come close to the normal sized bag of chips you get in the states.  I ended up resorting to having family members send bags of chips over from across the pond.  Now, I just buy bars of plain chocolate aka semi-sweet chocolate and break them up into chip size pieces.

And the Cup-a-Soup?  I’ve yet to find any that have noodles in them.  I really don’t eat these anymore, so it’s not such a big deal.

It took a bit of getting used to, but over time I’ve learned to compensate for what I can’t find and for what I can find.

I’ve also learned to enjoy some of the English foods that I never thought I would eat.  I was never a big lamb eater until my hubby made a leg of lamb one night.  It didn’t have that horrid smell while it was cooking and it was absolutely delicious!  We enjoy it often now.  I also now eat chutney (along with making it!) and haggis; but not together!  I absolutely love oatcakes especially with Blue Stilton cheese.

There are also some things I won’t eat, although I have tried.   Offal, black pudding and kidneys are three of them.  One of the items I make to sell is pickled onions.  I love onions…as long as they’re cooked.  I will not eat these as they are basically raw.  They do sit in a brine overnight but they are still raw as far as I’m concerned.

The English love their pickled onions; in fact they enjoy lots of things pickled.  I purchased a rather large bag of pickling onions…a 5kg/11lb bag to be precise.  I’ll be making a lot of pickled onions over the coming weeks.

The preparation of the onions takes the longest and is a bit tedious as they are small and vary in size from perhaps the size of your thumb to golf ball size.

They must first be topped and tailed.  I also remove the papery outer covering if at all possible.   Pour boiling water over the onions and leave to sit for 4 minutes.  This allows for easier peeling.

After they are peeled the onions are put into a brine consisting of water and salt (1 litre water to 100g of salt) and left overnight.

The pickle is made using malt vinegar and pickling spices consisting of dried chilis, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, mace blades, allspice berries, bay leaf, peppercorns and fresh ginger.  The mixture is brought to the boil, then simmered for 5 minutes and left to infuse overnight.

The next day the onions are drained and rinsed in cold water and stuffed into hot, sterilised jars.  The vinegar mix is reheated and brought to the boil.  I then pour it over the onions and seal the jars.

Most recipes for pickled onions will say to just pour the cold vinegar over but I prefer to heat it so that the jars vacuum seal properly.  When I hear the ‘pop’ of the lid, then I know they’re sealed.  The residual heat from the vinegar may soften the onions a bit, but not so much that they lose their crunch.

Don’t quite know what I’ll be making tomorrow, but you’ll find out soon enough!