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GINGER

Gently warming, or with a fiery kick to savour, this amazingly versatile root belies its unprepossessing appearance to elevate sweet or savoury dishes to the sublime. Debbie Major’s a huge fan and uses it here to flavour irresistible puds and bakes

THE HERITAGE INGREDIENT

"A love of ginger seems to run in my family. My grandfather made a mean ginger beer in his shed, cousin Sue would eat ginger flavoured food every day if she could, and Mum loved a piece of preserved (stem) ginger straight out of its jar of syrup. I love it too, but prefer the tangy, sweet-yet-hot flavour of the fresh root, which comes from a tropical plant. I cook a lot of Indian and Asian-style dishes, and I whip through a big piece at an alarming rate.

Ginger has been used in Asia for culinary and medicinal purposes for 5,000 years, but its use in British cooking is a more recent development. It was probably brought here by the Romans who imported it from the East. The breaking up of the Roman Empire cut off most of the supply to western Europe, but with the opening up of new trade routes in the 16th and 17th centuries, ginger’s availability and popularity grew rapidly.

By the 18th century we were adding dried, ground ginger to desserts, biscuits and cakes, but it was when we fell in love with Chinese and Indian food in the 1960s and 70s that we developed a taste for the fresh root – and now it’s almost a staple shopping-basket ingredient.

Fresh ginger adds zing to stir-fries and curries but works as well in Caribbean and North African cooking as it does in a British beef casserole. I like it with baked quinces, apples and pears, too. Dried, ground ginger works beautifully in desserts and bakes but also in savoury dishes, while stem and crystallised gingers are magical for desserts and baking, especially at this time of year."

GINGER’S BEST FOOD MATCHES…

• Garlic & chilli (making up the ‘holy trinity’ of Asian cooking)

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About Delicious Magazine

The November issue of delicious. is all about celebration. You’ll find a 20-page mix-and-match dinner party planner, as well as the recipes Rick Stein and his chef friends love to cook for others; even our midweek recipes have had a smart makeover. There are also guides to party fizz and cooking with spice. And with Christmas on the horizon we’ve asked Chetna Makan from GBBO to share her stunning festive cake recipe and compiled the ultimate gift guide for foodies so you can start planning now.
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