crystalized ginger

Another sporadic post.

You may have noticed my lack of consistency lately, it’s because of a couple of things; I am back in New Zealand and I am in the midst of rehearsing and performing in a show.

A show that involves me descending from the roof with my head pointing towards the ground in a rather artistic tumbling fashion.

While I am sure this visual spectacle is awe-inspiring for the audience, for me it induces a different sensation – one of mild motion sickness.

Which brings me to today’s kitchen experiment; candied ginger.

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There have been many occasions when, as a child, I have been out in boats – whale watching or visiting close offshore islands, where the inconsistent bobbing of the dark blue swells has upset my stomach just enough to have me hanging over the side of the boat, silently praying to be standing on solid ground. My prayers were never immediately answered but we were always given sugary gingernut biscuits to crunch on while we sipped syrupy cordial.

Candied ginger has this same effect, it is a lot more practical while flipping through the heavens, and makes a great decoration. On top of that, it is so simple to make!

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To begin, thinly slice as much ginger as you like, I made a rather large stash because I knew I would need it in bulk. The internet does say that it will keep for about six months, so there is no need to worry about it going to waste, but if you are planning on using it solely for decorative purposes, you may not feel the need to go all-out like I did.

A mandolin could come in handy for this task, but it probably won’t. I think mandolins are the most overrated kitchen utensil (followed closely by a potato peeler) and I prefer to slice it with a sharp knife, the results will have the same accuracy. Weigh the ginger (or make an educated guess), measure out an equal quantity of sugar and set aside for later.

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Add to a saucepan with just enough cold water to cover the ginger, bring to the boil and simmer until the water is all but reduced – this should take about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom, and because I cannot be near a boiling pot without the urge to stir it overcoming me.

Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Leave it to simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes. Drain off any excess sugar syrup – it is lovely and sweet, and infused with the ginger’s flavour so don’t let it go to waste, I swirled mine through a tub of softened vanilla ice cream. Delicious!

Place on a tray of baking paper and sprinkle with a bit more sugar. Leave your ginger slithers to dry overnight, I rotated mine after a few hours and placed them in a hot oven that I had just turned off to give them a bit of encouragement.

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They are sweet and chewy, with just enough crunch. It’s a great high-energy snack, and even though it’s also high in sugar, I don’t need to worry about overindulging because of the subtle spiciness which means I don’t even feel like eating more than a couple of pieces at once.

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chicken with a twist

As I mentioned the other day, I spend more than my fair share of time looking at food on the internet. I also got giving a pile of old food magazines recently, and they aren’t all too fascinating, but a recipe will pop up every once in a while that uses a really interesting flavour or ingredient. One that caught my eye was miso paste… and that is how my miso chicken was born!

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Miso is a salty paste made from fermented soybeans and has an interesting earthy and rich flavour. Because of its richness, I chose to roast aubergine and courgette with the chicken because they are both rather savoury vegetables, potatoes would also work well.

I used 6 chicken thighs for this recipe, my original intention was to marinate them in a mixture of 3 tablespoons of miso paste, the juice of a lemon some pepper and a splash of soya sauce but the paste is actually quite thick so would not have worked. Instead, spread half a tablespoon of miso paste onto each portion of chicken with a pastry brush, butterknife or spatula, covering as much of the surface area as possible before placing in a bowl with the lemon juice and soya sauce. Add crushed garlic if you fancy.

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The lemon juice will add a slight acidic tang to your end product while also tenderising your chicken during the marinating process. The saltiness of the miso is enough to season the dish, and I think it is wiser to add more salt at the end than to have a dish that is too salty.

Slice an aubergine and several courgettes into wedges and season with a teaspoon of ground ginger, ground caraway seeds, ground coriander seeds and ground fennel seeds. I also used a thinly sliced onion, a carrot sliced into thick sticks and a yellow bell pepper for colour. If you would prefer, you could add the caraway, coriander and fennel seeds whole for little bursts of flavour.

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Mix the chicken and vegetables together with ¼ of a cup of breadcrumbs for crisp and crunch, transfer to a large roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil. In mixing the two components together, some of the miso paste hopefully will have coated the vegetables; if it hasn’t then feel free to add a bit more to the vegetable wedges.

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Bake at 180°C for 45minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with chopped basil or parsley and serve straight from the roasting dish.

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