Fooding around with Jenny Morris

Fooding around with Jenny Morris

Good old ginger is good for almost anything

Jenny Morris

By Jenny Morris

Ginger is a flavour I have known since my childhood; it was always in our kitchen. My father also grew it in the garden in Durban. Its official name is Zingiber officinale; quite a bit more haughty sounding than simple old “ginger”.

It was originally cultivated in China and eventually found its way around the world. I believe the ancient Romans loved ginger too and used it a lot. It was a very expensive spice and they say that one pound of ginger was equivalent to the price of a whole sheep.
Can you believe that ginger has influenced the history of man since ancient China? There were wars waged and entire dynasties rose and fell with the objective of seizing it. I would have joined that fight to hold onto it – spices were a very valuable commodity then.

Is ginger a herb or a spice, you might be asking? Well, it is officially a herb I am told, but it is also known as a spice. Of course it is a spice – it spices up your cooking, baking and health! Ginger has a deliciously strong and distinct flavor.
The flower smells really beautiful, but it is the root or rhizomes that make my heart beat faster and my mouth happy.

Just think about all the things we can do with ginger: cookies; cakes; chutneys; pickles; drinks like ginger ale and ginger beer. It makes a wonderful hot toddy for those suffering from colds and flu. It warms the body from the inside. If you are feeling nauseous, eat or drink ginger, or make a steam pot of ginger infused tea. You have to bash the ginger to get all the good stuff out of it, though. Place it in a pot of hot, not boiling water, give it a few spoonfuls of runny honey and let it steep.

A question many people ask is, “Is ginger actually good for you?” Well, if the Thai or Chinese people are to be believed, then it is indeed.
I have an Indian friend in Durban that has always believed that if you have sore or strained muscles you must make a ginger and turmeric paste and apply it to the affected area twice a day.

I believe that the Chinese have used it in medicine for over two thousand years and recommend the use of it to help cure and prevent many health problems. A little remedy I was told about was if you are blocked up from a cold. Boil a teaspoonful of ginger powder in a litre of water and inhale the steam.

Back on the subject of food: when I am in Thailand I always have what they call a “Welcome Snack”, which is a platter of little bowls consisting of fresh chopped ginger, lemon grass, chillies, fresh lime, toasted coconut, onion, and roasted peanuts, a plateful of crispy Beetlenut leaves and a bowl of sweet hot dipping sauce.

The way to eat the Welcome Snack is to take a little bit of everything and wrap it in the Beetlenut leaf and dip into the hot sweet sauce and treat your mouth to some amazing flavour that touches every taste bud.

This is easy to make at home. Just wrap it in washed, young tender spinach leaves.
Ginger, garlic and chilly just love each other.
Imagine a curry without those three wonderful elements. You have to store your ginger well, if you don’t use it often. Keep it in the freezer and grate it into your food when you need it; otherwise, when buying it, look for fat, plump, heavy rhizomes and use it up fast.

Let’s cook!

Tofu snack
serves 4
You don’t need to be vegetarian to enjoy tofu – I ate it almost every day in China. There’s so much you can do with it.

  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbls light soy sauce
  • 1 chilli, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • ½ tsp. ginger, chopped
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbls sherry
  • 400 g tofu, rinsed and cut into cubes
  • 3 tbls corn flour
  • a good grind of Szechuan pepper
  • 2 tbls sesame seeds
  • peanut oil for frying

In a blender, combine the sesame oil, soy sauce, chilli, garlic, ginger, brown sugar and sherry and give it a whizz. Place tofu in a dish and pour over the sauce. Marinate for 1 hour. Mix together the corn flour, Szechuan pepper and sesame seeds. Remove the tofu from the marinade and toss in the corn flour mixture. Heat some peanut oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the tofu in batches until golden. Drain on paper towels and pile onto a plate.
Tip: You can use sunflower oil instead of peanut oil – I just like the taste.
©Jenny Morris ‘More Rude Food’

Ginger pineapple fried rice
Serves 6
Bread may be the stuff of life, and I really do love it – where else would I spread those sinful slabs of butter? But rice is a part of my life too; you can do so much with it. My son Darin cooks himself a cup after school and eats it as is. Not only is it nutritious, it also stretches a meal. And you can use it to make an existing vegetarian dish at the drop of a hat!

  • 2 tbls olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbls fresh ginger, chopped
  • 6 spring onions with tops, roughly chopped
  • 200 g mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 cups long grain rice, precooked – don’t overcook
  • 1 cup bamboo shoots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup water chestnuts, sliced
  • 1 cup fragrant pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 2 tbls coriander, roughly chopped
  • soy sauce to taste
  • sesame oil for drizzling

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan and gently fry the garlic, ginger and spring onions for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes, then add the rice, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and pineapple.
Fry together for another 3-5 minutes. Stir in the sprouts and coriander, season with soy and drizzle with sesame oil.
©Jenny Morris ‘More Rude Food’

Deep-fried basil and ginger rice
serves 4-6

  • oil for deep-frying
  • 2 cups fresh sweet basil leaves, washed and well dried
  • 3 cm fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
  • 3 cups cooked long grain rice,

Heat oil and fry basil leaves. Drain on paper towel. Now deep fry the ginger sticks, and drain on paper towel. Stir the basil and ginger through the cooked rice.
Serve hot!
©Jenny Morris ‘More Rude Food’