Meet Herb

Note: Please feel free to use the Measurement Conversions tool to convert any unfamiliar units in the recipes to those you are more comfortable using. Ginger is one of the most widely used spices in the world. Essential in Asian and Indian dishes containing meat, seafood or vegetables, it is also integral in Japanese marinades. You could almost say that there is no Chinese cuisine without it -- at least no respectable stir-fry. In America you find it mostly in desserts and baking but it is quickly becoming popular in many other dishes. Add a pinch of ginger in any dish where you're cutting down the salt, add it to chicken soup, sautéed vegetables and roast chicken or pork. For a great steak, rub ginger, garlic and black pepper into the meat and let it sit a couple of hours before grilling. I find the addition of ginger to my meatballs helps to cut down on the acidity of the sauce they simmer in.

Ginger has slightly lemony overtones with a very pungent flavour and can be bought in many forms. Powdered is the form of choice for all types of baking including gingerbread and coffee cakes. Cracked ginger is used traditionally for pickling and canning but is also being used more and more in marinades, sauces and stocks. Whole root ginger can be kept indefinitely. It can be grated, sliced, diced, or pieces of it can be broken off. A piece of a drier root makes a nice addition to a pot of stock or a fruit sauce. Crystallized ginger is ginger that has been peeled, diced and preserved using a sugar cure method. It's perfect for baking and candy making and is also good in teriyaki or sweet and sour marinades because it keeps its pungency and bite even with the candy coating.

A decoction of fresh ginger root is said to aid greatly in the fighting of colds and flu.

Ginger is a perennial that grows about 3 feet high. It's reedy looking with spiky green leaves and flowers that are mauve and yellow. The flavour is in the root of the plant just under the surface of the soil. A "hand" of ginger is usually approximately 6 inches, beige on the outside and a pale creamy yellow on the inside. It can easily be grown out of pieces of live root. But be forewarned, not all the ginger in the supermarket is still living and viable, while perfectly good for use in cooking, it will not necessarily be good for sprouting. You may need to buy several roots and plant them all, then exercise great patience. Ginger will probably not show any greenery for at least a month, probably even more. Ginger can spend the summers outside, but adapt it slowly to the light by giving it rest periods in the shade. It will, however, grow just as nicely if you keep it indoors entirely.

My friend Steven -- the Scotsman living in Germany -- had such fun on our last collaboration that he wanted to do it again. The following recipes -- and be forewarned there are quite a few of them -- are all his. Any notations and anecdotes with the recipes are his as well.

I know they're all wonderful, but you try them out for yourself. Since there are so many recipes in this month's column, here's a quick rundown of what's in store for you:

    (page 1) (page 2) (page 2) (page 2) (page 3) (page 3) (page 3) (page 4) (page 4) (page 4) (page 5) (page 5)

Okay . . . handing over the column to Steven. Dear readers, please meet Steven Dougan, a very dear friend and a chef par excellence!!

Unless stated otherwise, all dishes serve 4 people.

Fresh ginger should be peeled before use, it can be replaced by dried ginger but it will make a big difference in the taste, as the dried form does not have the same aroma. I have tried both and much prefer the fresh variation.

Some of these recipes have 5 pepper mixture as one of the ingredients. In Europe, we can get this mixture in any Asian shopping center. It is a mixture of black, white, rosé, and green pepper corns with pimento berries. If you do not have access to 5 pepper mixture, then just use freshly ground black pepper.

You will also find the use of 5 aroma powder in some of these recipes. This is a mixture of aniseed, fennel seeds, cloves, Szechwan pepper, and cinnamon. You can buy it ready mixed, or mix your own as I do, since I prefer a bit more Szechwan pepper in mine. (Some men like it hot!)

Many of these recipes are adapted from Ken Hom Travels with a Hot Wok -- some the way described in the book and others with slight changes, adapted to my own taste. I highly recommend this book to all lovers of eastern cooking.

Grilled Scampi with Hot-Spicy South-East-Asian Sauce

For the Scampi
  • Some thin bamboo sticks for the skewers
  • 450g. raw scampi
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon 5 pepper mixture, or freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, extra virgin
For the Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon seeded and finely chopped fresh red chili
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon 5 pepper mixture, or freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, extra virgin
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons of a sweet rice wine

Soak the skewers in warm water for about 15 minutes.

Shell and clean the scampi. Then wash them in cold water with a tablespoon of salt. Let them drain and repeat the process with fresh salted water. Rinse well and dab dry with a kitchen towel.

Mix the rest of the salt with the pepper and olive oil. Mix the scampi into the mixture making sure that the scampi are coated all over. Then skewer them on the bamboo sticks.

Place all the ingredients for the sauce in a blender and blend until they have the texture of a paste. Grill the scampi under your oven grill or do them on your barbecue, for about 2 minutes each side. Serve straight away on warmed plates, sprinkled with the spicy sauce.

Note: Please feel free to use the Measurement Conversions tool to convert any unfamiliar units in the recipes to those you are more comfortable using.

Tuna Carpaccio

For the Tuna
  • 450g boneless tuna fillet
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
For the sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon peel
  • 2 tablespoons apple vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, extra virgin

Cut the fish fillet into four equal sized slices. Lay each slice between sheets of plastic wrap, and with a kitchen hammer or an empty bottle, hammer them thin. They should be so thin that they become almost transparent. Place each one on a side plate.

Mix the spring onion, coriander and the ginger in a bowl, then sprinkle the mixture over each fillet.

In another bowl mix the pepper, salt and lemon peel with the vinegar, add the mustard, then slowly beat the olive oil into the mixture. This can be done in advance.

Shortly before serving, sprinkle the sauce over the fillet and serve.

Pea Soup with Ginger

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, extra virgin
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • A pinch freshly ground white pepper
  • 350g deep frozen peas
  • 1 1/3 litres vegetable stock
  • 100g potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes

Heat the oil in a large pot till it starts smoking lightly, add the onion and ginger and fry for about a minute, stirring continuously. Add the pepper and salt (to your own taste) and cook for another 3 minutes till the onions are transparent.

Add the peas and fry for another minute, add the stock and bring to a Boil, then add the potatoes and cook covered for about 20 min.

Remove the pot from the heat, leave to cool a bit then puree` with a hand mixer. Reheat just before serving, and serve piping hot with freshly baked Ciabatta bread.

Savory Tomato Soup

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, extra virgin
  • 6 tablespoons spring onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
  • 100g shallots, finely chopped
  • 220g tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes (or tinned tomatoes, drained and cut into small cubes)
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/3 litre vegetable or chicken stock (I tried both, and found the vegetable stock to be better)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 125g fresh cream
  • 6 tablespoons fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
  • 25g butter, cut into small pieces
  • Some fresh coriander leaves to decorate

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Gently fry the spring onions, ginger and shallots, stirring continuously for about 7-8 min. Be careful that they don't brown. Pour the mixture into a large pot, add the tomatoes, ground coriander, sugar, stock, then salt and pepper to taste then stir well. Heat and cook gently for about 10 min. Remove from heat and leave to cool for a while.

Stir the cream, fresh coriander and chives into the mixture, ladle the soup in small amounts into a mixer and mix until the cream is well combined with the other ingredients. Reheat the soup slowly, add the butter and stir well. Serve the soup piping hot in small soup bowls, dressed with the coriander leaves. I serve freshly baked Walnut bread with this soup.

  • Yields: 4-6 portions
Note: Please feel free to use the Measurement Conversions tool to convert any unfamiliar units in the recipes to those you are more comfortable using.

Salmon Scampi Ragout with Ginger

  • 450g raw scampi (I used deep frozen scampi. It was easier, although fresh scampi are better.)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 450g salmon filet, skinned
  • 1/2 teaspoon 5 pepper mixture
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 450g fresh tomatoes, peeled and seeded
  • 350g carrots
  • 35g butter
  • 11/2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
  • 250ml homemade fish or chicken stock (This tastes better with fish stock.)
  • 175ml crème fraîche
  • Salt and 5 pepper mixture
  • 220g deep frozen garden peas
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped

Rinse the thawed scampi in water with 1 tablespoon of salt, drain and repeat, then rinse well in clear water, drain and dab dry. Cut the Salmon into 1" sized cubes. Sprinkle the salmon and scampi evenly with the rest of the salt, the 5 pepper mixture and the cayenne pepper. Cut the tomatoes into the same size of cubes as the salmon.

Scrape the carrots and cut them diagonally so that the slices are about 2" long. Blanche them in boiling salted water for 3 minutes then drain.

Heat the butter in a pot, and fry the salmon and scampi for about 3 minutes, remove them and set aside.

Replace the pot on the hot plate, add the ginger and shallots, and stir fry at high heat for about a minute, add the stock and -- at a high temperature -- reduce by half. Add the crème fraîche, the carrots and peas; cook for 2 minutes. Add the salmon, scampi and tomatoes and cook for another minute. Serve on pre-heated plates and dress with the chives. Serve with wild rice and a bottle of Frascatti, a dry Italian white wine.

Steamed Cod with Chili-Salad

For the Cod
  • 450g cod filet, in 4 equal sized pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon 5 pepper mixture
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
  • Orange oil
For the Salad
  • 450g romaine lettuce
  • 25g butter
  • 2 fresh red chili peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon 5 pepper mixture
  • 1teaspoon sugar

Sprinkle the fish filet evenly with the salt, pepper and paprika, place on an oven resistant deep plate and evenly spread the garlic and ginger over the fish. Pour 5cm of water in a deep pot, place a steamer basket in it, bring the water to the boil. Carefully place the plate with the fish in the steamer basket, reduce the heat and cover the pot. Leave to steam for 8 - 10 minutes at a medium heat, occasionally adding boiling water to the pot.

While the fish is steaming wash and separate the lettuce leaves, cut the tips. Heat the butter in a large pot, add the chili, water, salt, pepper, sugar and the lettuce leaves. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

When the fish is cooked remove the plate from the steaming basket. Remove the lettuce and drain, catching the liquid. Lay the lettuce leaves on pre heated plates and arrange the fish filet on the leaves. Reduce the caught liquid by half then stir in the crème fraîche, pour over the fish filet and sprinkle orange oil over the top, serve straight away.

I served this on a sunny September day in Denmark, (we had just caught the cod ourselves) with fresh baked Ciabatta and a chilled Bardollino (a lovely dry Italian red wine) -- it was absolutely delicious.

Barbecued Spare Ribs

For the Ribs
  • 1 1/2 kg pork ribs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon 5 pepper mixture
For the sauce
  • 5 tablespoons hoi sin sauce (This can be bought in any good Asian shop.)
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine) or a dry sherry
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili-bean sauce (This dark sauce, more like a paste made from soy beans, chili and other herbs, not to be mistaken with chili oil, can be bought in all Asian shopping centers in Europe.)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1teaspoon Dijon mustard

Preheat your oven to 150°C or 300°F.

Lay the ribs on a tray, sprinkle them both sides evenly with salt and pepper, place them in the oven and bake for an hour. Up to this stage you can do the ribs 4 hours in advance.

Place all of the ingredients for the sauce in a mixer and mix well.

Fire up the barbecue, when the coals are glowing, brush the mixture on both sides of the spare ribs and grill each side for 10 minutes, serve straight away.

I haven't tried spare ribs this way, but it is planned for the next barbecue, whenever it stops raining!

Note: Please feel free to use the Measurement Conversions tool to convert any unfamiliar units in the recipes to those you are more comfortable using.

Belly Pork Casserole with Chinese Mushrooms

  • 11/2 kg belly pork, boneless but still with the skin
  • 50g dried Chinese black mushrooms
  • 1 piece of fresh ginger about 11/2 inches long
  • 11/4 litres water
  • 600ml Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
  • 150ml light soy sauce
  • 50ml dark soy sauce
  • 150g sugar
  • 4 whole star anise
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 dried red chili peppers
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 6 whole spring onions
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Cut the unpeeled ginger into 6 equal sized slices, then place them along with the water and the rice wine in a large casserole. Bring to a boil then place the belly pork in the casserole, simmer for 45 minutes, skimming continuously. Add the soy sauces, sugar, star anise, cinnamon, chili peppers, garlic, spring onions and salt. Seal the casserole and cook for 1 1/2-2 hours until the pork is nice and tender.

While the pork is cooking, soak the mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes, drain and press the rest of the water out. Remove and discard the stems but leave the tops whole. When the pork is tender, add the mushrooms and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Remove the pork from the casserole a let it cool slightly, cut into thin slices and serve on pre-warmed plates dressed with the mushrooms and some of the sauce from the casserole.

  • Yields: 6-8 portions

Barbecued Rump Steak Szechwan

For the Steak
  • 4 rump steaks, each 200g
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Szechwan pepper, roasted and ground
  • sesame-chili oil, to taste
For the Sauce
  • 120ml Mirin (a sweet Japanese rice wine)
  • 3 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
  • 250ml homemade chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chili peppers
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh coriander, finely chopped

Rub the steaks with the sesame oil and evenly sprinkle the Szechwan pepper over both sides, leave them to marinate overnight in the fridge.

Boil the rice wine and the shallots in a small pot, till it has been reduced by 2 thirds. Then add the stock, garlic, ginger, and chili peppers, boil until this is also reduced by 2 thirds. It should have thickened a bit by now, add the butter piece for piece stirring gently. Finally add the soy sauce and the coriander. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat your barbecue, till the coals are glowing, grill the steaks 5-6 minutes each side (longer if you don't like them rare) place them to the side of the barbecue away from the direct heat but enough to keep them warm, leave to rest for about 10 minutes. Reheat the sauce, cut the steaks into thin strips, place on preheated plates, pour the sauce over the steaks, and sprinkle with sesame-chili oil. I served this with oven hot French bread and Ice-cold German yeast-wheat beer (Hefe-Weizen Beer) with a slice of lemon. (You should be able to get Paulaner Hefe-Weizen Bier as it is as common -- world wide as Beck's.)

Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding the Asian Way

  • 2 1/2 kg roast beef
For the Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon 5 aroma powder
  • 2 teaspoons 5 pepper mixture
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 2 teaspoons Szechwan pepper, roasted and ground
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons paprika powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
For the Yorkshire Pudding
  • 5 beaten eggs
  • 150g flour
  • 475ml milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon 5 pepper mixture
  • 3 tablespoons spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 150ml drippings from the roast

Preheat the oven to 220°C or 425°F.

Mix all the seasoning ingredients in a small bowl, and rub the top and sides of the roast with the mixture, place the roast in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, reduce the heat to 190°C or 375°F and cook for another hour. Now turn the oven off and leave the roast to rest in the oven for 1 hour. If you do not like your Roast to be rare let it cook for an extra 15 to 30 minutes. Remove the roast and take as much of the drippings as you need for the Yorkshire Pudding, the rest you can use to make a Savory gravy. I just added water and thickened the stock slightly, with a little browned flour. Before carving the roast leave it to rest at room temperature for another 20 minutes.

Reheat the oven to 220°C or 425°F for the Yorkshire Pudding. Mix the eggs and flour in large bowl to a smooth texture, then add the milk, salt, pepper and herbs, pour the fat into a casserole or large oven proof flat bowl and heat it until is very hot and just starting to bubble.

Pour the pudding mixture in and place straight into the oven, bake for 30 minutes or until the pudding is golden brown and crispy. Carve the roast and serve coated with the savory gravy, the Yorkshire pudding on the side and your favorite vegetables.

Being a true Scot, I have never been a great friend of this traditional English dish, but I loved it done this way. I served it with roast potatoes (I do mine dusted, very lightly, with finely ground nutmeg before roasting) and Princess Beans (half cooked in salt water, then brazed in garlic butter till they are done) washed down with a chilled Valpollicella (a dry Italian red wine).

Note: Please feel free to use the Measurement Conversions tool to convert any unfamiliar units in the recipes to those you are more comfortable using.

Leg of Lamb with Mustard Soy Sauce

  • 5 garlic cloves
  • Leg of lamb about 1 3/4 kg
  • 5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon 5 pepper mixture, or freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons rosemary leaves (crushed)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F.

Cut the garlic into thin slices, then with a small sharp knife cut slits into the leg of lamb and insert the garlic into the slits. Mix the rest of the ingredients together and rub the mixture over the lamb. Place the lamb in the oven and baked for 1 1/2 hours, if you like it well done give it 1/2 an hour more. Remove from the oven and leave to rest in a warm place for 20 - 30 minutes, before carving.

I serve it with parsley potatoes and a vegetable mixture of fresh garden peas, small young carrots, sweet corn, and red paprika strips, half cooked and then brazed in butter until done, then served with freshly ground black pepper sprinkled over each portion.

Shoulder of Lamb with Chinese Herbs

  • 1 1/2 - 2 kg lamb shoulder, boned and rolled
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon 5 pepper mixture
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 20 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons shallots, cut into thin slices
  • 3 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine, or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili-bean sauce (This dark sauce, more like a paste made from soy beans, chili and other herbs, not to be mistaken with chili oil, can be bought in all Asian shopping centers in Europe.)
  • 475ml homemade chicken stock
  • 4 small fresh rosemary twigs
  • 3 fresh thyme twigs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped

Preheat your oven to 190°C or 375°F.

Sprinkle the lamb evenly with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan till it smokes slightly, reduce the heat and lay the lamb in the oil, browning it slowly on all sides for about 15 minutes. Then place it in a large casserole.

Pour some of the oil out of the frying pan, leaving just enough to be able to stir fry the other ingredients. Add the garlic, ginger and shallots, fry for 2 minutes. Place this mixture in the casserole, then pour in the rice wine, soy sauce, chili-bean sauce and the chicken stock.

Bring to a boil, add the rosemary and thyme, then place a well fitting lid on the casserole. Place the casserole in the oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours or until the lamb is tender. Remove from the oven and leave to rest at room temperature for 20 min before carving.

Remove the garlic from the casserole, and place it next to the lamb, skim the fat from the liquid in the casserole and reduce it by a third. Cut the lamb into slices and place on preheated plates, drape the garlic round the slices and pour the sauce over it. Dress with the coriander and chives, and serve.

I haven't tried this one yet, but it is next on my list. I will be serving it with freshly made Spaetzle (cut noodles), as lamb and garlic go very well with this south German pasta.

Well that's it for now, as they say in Germany "Prost", or as we Scots say "Slainte".

I imagine that's enough to keep you busy for over a month! See you next month and I expect to hear we've had a run on Ginger.

TTFN

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