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  ♥

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Garam Masala ~ Make it Yourself

GARAM MASALA quite literally means a mixture of hot spices and is a blend of dry-roasted whole spices from northern India (cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, cumin, cloves, peppercorns and bay leaves) that are ground to a powder.  It is usually added at the end of cooking to finish off a dish with a delicate aroma of roasted spices, but it can also be added with other spices during cooking.

I love making my own spice mixes because once you make your own blends, there is no comparison between yours and the shop-bought varieties that have probably been sitting on a shelf for months.  If you enjoy making Indian foods from scratch, why not make a batch of Garam Masala for yourself.

We buy many of our herbs and spices in large bags (400g/14oz, roughly) so have all the ingredients for this on hand.  You’ll need a spice mill or an electric food chopper/processor or if you feel like putting some elbow grease into it, a mortar and pestle.  I will admit the electric way is much easier, especially with the bay leaves as they are not very easy to grind!

~~GARAM MASALA~~

Makes about 5 Tablespoons

4 pieces cinnamon stick or cassia bark, each 5cm/2in long

12 bay leaves

5 black cardamom pods, crushed

20 green cardamom pods, crushed

2 tbsp coriander seeds

2 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tsp cloves

1 tsp black peppercorns

Heat a dry frying pan over a medium heat until you can feel the heat rising.  Add the cinnamon, bay and black cardamom and roast for about 1 minute, shaking the pan.

Add the remaining spices and continue roasting, shaking the pan or stirring the spices around for about another 1-2 minutes or until you can start to smell the aroma of the spices.  You will note that the bay leaves will start to dry and curl up.  Watch carefully that the spices do not burn.

Remove the pan from the heat and carefully tip the spices onto a plate and allow to cool.

Transfer the spices to the spice mill and blend until finely ground.

Store the mixture in a airtight container, away from direct sunlight for up to 6 months.

 

♥♥ Terri ♥♥

Chicken and Red Lentil Soup – South Beach Diet

From the South Beach Diet Cookbook, this is a great warming soup that’s creamy with a hint of Indian spices and heat.  I usually make it for a lunch and leave out the chicken.  It’s pretty simple to make and takes less than an hour to prepare and cook.  Feel free to use fresh ginger and add some ground coriander as I did for a bit more flavor.  I have to admit, the first time I made this, I wanted to eat the whole lot; it was that good!  The book suggests adding some shredded unsweetened coconut as an additional garnish, should you so desire.

It is listed as Phase 2 due to the carrots as they are not allowed on Phase 1.  I suppose you could leave out the carrots for a Phase 1 meal, but I don’t know if that will detract from the taste.  And don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients; it just seems long! (Please note: I did not use the chicken in this so you will not see it in the photos)

~~CHICKEN AND RED LENTIL SOUP~~

1 tbsp olive oil

2 small carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

1 onion, sliced

1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 tsp curry powder

1/4 tsp ground ginger (or use fresh)

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander (optional)

1/4 tsp dried chili flakes

145g/5oz red lentils

900g/2lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts

700ml/1¼ pints chicken stock

2 tsp tomato puree/paste/concentrate

480ml/16oz water

sliced spring onion, to garnish

 

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat,  Add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, spices and chili.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the veggies have softened.

Stir in the lentils and place the chicken on top.  Add the stock, tomato puree and water and stir to combine.

Partially cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the veggies are soft and the chicken is cooked through.

 

Remove the pan from the heat, take out the chicken and cut into shreds and set aside.

Transfer about half of the veggies and liquid to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  (I use an electric hand blender for this step and only puree up until there’s still some chunky bits ~ saves on washing up!)

Then return it to the saucepan along with the shredded chicken, stir to combine and serve.

Garnish with spring onion and or shredded unsweetened coconut.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Curried Parsnip and Carrot Soup

When we told my mother-in-law a while back, that I cook during the week and Chef P cooks on the weekend, her response was ‘how civilized!’, so as yesterday was Saturday, Chef P did the cooking.

The weather was a bit on the cool side, although not as cool as some of my friends pointed out to me in the Montgomery County area of PA.  And when it’s cool outside, there’s nothing better than a nice warming bowl of soup and it doesn’t matter what kind it is.  Soup to me is always comfort food.  What do most of us want when we’re sick with cold and flu? Something warm and comforting; soup is the answer.

Now granted, neither of us are feeling under the weather, but soup did sound like a great idea.  I have a great soup cookbook called Souped Up by Jane Pettigrew that I picked up at the used bookstore in town some time ago.  It contains over 70 different soups, be it cold soups, cream soups, soups that are as hearty as a meal and recipes for stocks, essential equipment and even a brief history of soup.

Chef P chose a Curried Parsnip and Carrot Soup as he had just picked up a glut of parsnips from the reduced to clear section the night before, so what better way to use them up then with a big pot of soup!

~~CURRIED PARSNIP AND CARROT SOUP~~

Serves 4-6

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 Tbsp medium curry powder *(see note at end)

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

2lb/900g parsnips, peeled and sliced

2lb/900g carrots, peeled and sliced

3 pints/60fl oz chicken stock or veggie stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper

150ml/5fl oz double/heavy cream

toasted pine nuts, to garnish (optional)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and gently fry until transparent.  Add the garlic, curry powder, coriander and cumin, mix well and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add the parsnips and carrots, cover the pan and  sweat over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes.  Add the stock.  Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 25-30 minutes, or until veggies are tender.

Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool down a bit, then puree it in a food processor or blender until smooth.  You may have to do this step in batches, depending on the size of your processor or blender.

Return the mixture to the pan and warm through.

Just before serving, add the cream and taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.  Warm through again, being careful not to allow the soup to boil.  Serve garnished with toasted pine nuts, if using.

I drizzled cream on it, but it spread more than I was hoping it would!

This makes a really large amount of soup, so plan on eating it for a couple of days after.  Pair this with a sandwich for a good hot and hearty lunch to take to work and warm up in the microwave!

*You will note in the ingredients picture, a small jar with a skull and crossbones labeled ‘The Mixture’.  This is a concoction Chef P came up with and we use it when we want to add a bit of heat and extra flavor.  He added a 1/2 tsp of it to the soup.  If you wish to add a bit more heat to your soup, add some cayenne or use a hot curry powder in place of the medium.

Enjoy!

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SOUP?

Curry Night

CURRY NIGHT

Oh, the temperature is slowly dropping now!  How can I tell?

Hubby made a curry last night.

I should explain that we share the cooking…I cook during the week and hubby cooks on the weekends.  When we mentioned this to my mother-in-law one time, her response was, ‘How civilized!’

So as he did the cooking, I took pictures along the way and thought I would share his recipe with you.  Feel free to adjust some of the amounts of the ingredients.  We like lots of garlic, and I mean LOTS!

Cooks Note:

This recipe is good for the weekend as it will take about 3 hours from preparation to serving.  It takes a long time but it is well worth it.

~~BEEF CURRY~~

All of our curries start with what we call ‘the three major food groups’, those being onions – 2 large,  garlic – 7 cloves and (thumb-length piece) ginger.  Cut these up finely by hand or feel free to throw them into a food processor but do each separately.  Put the onions into a small bowl and the garlic and ginger together into another bowl and set aside.

You will need 3-4 Tbsp. ghee which is basically clarified butter.  We make our own using unsalted butter by putting it into a glass jam jar and setting it on the warming plate on the stove so that it slowly melts. We do this so the milk solids in the butter fall to the bottom and don’t mix with the fat.  You can do this in the microwave on a very low setting or on the stove over low heat.  Do not stir.

Slice up 2 fresh chili peppers of your liking and put into a small bowl.

OPTIONAL:  If you wish to add veggies to the curry, feel free.  We add a combination of carrots, peas, green beans and bell pepper, but pick whatever you want.  If you don’t want to add the veg, then don’t. We also add beans, again, that is optional but they do add some bulk.  Use any type: kidney, chick pea, haricot, pinto, black, black eyes, etc.

Prepare the spices:  You’ll need 1 tsp. fennel seed, 6 cloves, cinnamon stick, seeds from three cardamom pods, and seeds from 2 black cardamom seeds.  Put all of this into a small bowl.  This is spice bowl #1

In another bowl put 2 tsp. of any type chili powder you wish (we make our own with a mix of turmeric, cayenne, ground ginger, ground coriander, paprika, cumin and cinnamon – know as The Mixture) along with 1 tsp. each ground coriander and turmeric. This is spice bowl #2

You will also need 5 Tbsp Full-fat Greek or plain yogurt, 1-2 Tbsp. tomato puree/paste, 1 tsp. salt and 1 sachet of creamed coconut, if needed to help thicken at the end.

We used beef rump steak, but this works well with just about any meat: beef, chicken, lamb or pork.  Remove any excess fat and cut up the meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

OK, that is all the ingredients, now for the procedure…

Heat up your stew pot and add 3 Tbsp ghee, being careful not to add any of the milk solids from the bottom of the jar.  Add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.  Add the contents of spice bowl #1 and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and ginger and cook 8 minutes, stirring often to keep from sticking.

Add chilis and cook another 2 minutesAdd contents of spice bowl #2 and mix thoroughly and continue to cook 1-2 minutes.  The mixture will look extremely dry but this is normal.

(You’ll want to get some water boiling at this point as you will need about 2 pints/4 cups)

Clear a spot in the pan by moving everything to the sides of the potAdd 1 Tbsp yogurt and let sit, undisturbed until it starts to sizzle and release moisture.  Stir it around in the same spot without taking up the mixture from the sides of the pan.  You are trying to deglaze the pan at this point.  Move the mixture around and clear another spot and add another spoonful of yogurt, again letting it sit until it releases moisture.  Do this same procedure of moving and clearing until all yogurt is used.

Add the tomato puree and then mix thoroughly.  The mixture will have a beautiful orangey-red color. (sorry about the poor picture quality!)

Add enough boiling water (about 2 pints/4 cups) to the mixture and stir, making it a soup consistency.  Cover and simmer 40 minutes to allow the flavors to mix, stirring occasionally.

While that is simmering, heat a frying pan over med-high heat and add peanut oil and brown the meat in batches without having the pieces touching each other…you want the meat to brown, not steam.  Set aside.

After the 40 minutes are up, add the salt and stir.  Do a taste test for seasoning.  By this time, it should have a ‘nice tang’.  Add the meat and any juices that have collected in the bottom of the bowl.  Add the veggies and/or beans, if using.

Give it a good stir and cover and cook for at least another 30 minutes.  Test the veggies and meat and if not tender, cook a bit more.  Once they are tender, you may need to add the creamed coconut if the mixture seems a bit thin. 

Break up the coconut and add to the curry, stir and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Turn of heat and let sit about 15 minutes.

Serve over Basmati or Jasmine rice or noodles.

Enjoy!