Ginger

 Ginger
One of the most widely used spices of all, which comes to us to us fresh, dried, powdered, preserved in syrup and crystalised: a very versatile spice. In this country we are partial to ginger in our gingerbread cakes, puddings and pickles – not forgetting the ginger beer which in its heyday came in those beautiful stoneware bottles, not collectors’ items.

If you can get hold of fresh root ginger, it really does add a clean fresh taste, as well as spiciness, to curries. It looks just like a knobbly, mis-shapen root and it can be stored wrapped in cling film in the vegetable drawer of a refrigerator for several days, or in the freeze wrapped in freezer-foil and unpeeled (Elizabeth David says that, peeled and sliced, it stores well in a small jar of sherry). Lumps of dried ginger are used in making up picking spices for chutneys and pickles.

Preserved ginger is expensive, though less so if you buy it in plain jars (some supermarkets have good stocks around Christmas): chopped up it adds a touch of luxury sprinkled with some syrup over ice-cream, or added to rhubarb fool – in fact ginger has a great affinity with rhubarb – or adorning the top and inside of a preserved ginger cake.

Ginger is most commonly found in its powdered form: check that it is spicy and fresh tasting, and not musty and stale.
 
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