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Fortifying food with fresh ginger

Fresh ginger is one of the most widely used spices in both eastern and western cuisines and is known for its medicinal properties. I like its versatility as it blends well with breakfast cereals and savory or sweet dishes. It can be pickled, made into tea, gingerbread, cakes, sweets and beer.

If you have not used it before, the taste is similar to dry ginger but fresher with a hint of citrus. The distinctive flavour of fresh ginger changes as it is cooked and it can be added to recipes such as apple and pumpkin pies or oriental dishes.

The fresh root enhances the flavour of curry mixes which can contain up to 20 per cent ginger. If you have a cold, a piece of fresh ginger can soothe sore throats. For a warming hot toddy, boil a piece of ginger root in water for 10 minutes, strain it and then mix the infusion with some honey or agave, fresh lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of whiskey.

If you wish to plant shop-bought ginger root, look for organic as it stands a better chance of sprouting.

Silverbeet, Roasted Butternut Squash and Ginger with Popped Amaranth

You will need:
6 silverbeet leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 whole garlic clove
½ onion
1 natural stock cube with no artificial additives
50ml hot water
½ roasted butternut squash
Salt and pepper
¼ cup popped amaranth
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger root
A pinch of dried coriander
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves

To roast the butternut squash, chop it into cubes with the skin on. Toss the cubes in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on an ovenproof dish covered with baking paper. Roast in a preheated oven at 200℃ for 35 minutes.

To prepare the silverbeet, wash it well and then trim around the tough stem. Chop it up roughly. Peel and chop the onion. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, deep pan over low heat. Add the onion and whole garlic. Add the dried coriander. Cook for 5 minutes until the onion become translucent, then add the grated fresh ginger and chopped silverbeet.

Cook for 2 to 3 minutes on medium to high heat until they start to wilt. Then add the stock cube dissolved in the water. Season with salt and pepper. Chop the fresh coriander leaves. Add the roasted pumpkin and 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander. Cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and toss in the rest of the chopped coriander. Place in a serving dish and serve immediately topped with popped amaranth.

How to pop amaranth:

Three tablespoons of raw amaranth will give you 1 cup of popped amaranth. Heat a heavy pan over high heat until it is extremely hot.  Add one tablespoon of raw amaranth. Cover the pan with a lid, lift the pan from the burner and shake it from side to side. Provided that the pan is very hot, it will take around 12 seconds for the amaranth to pop. Remove from the pan immediately to avoid it burning. Add the next tablespoon of raw amaranth, repeat the process and then pop the last tablespoon of seeds. The process will not work if you add more than one tablespoon at a time. The popped amaranth can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month in the fridge.

This is a vegan, gluten-free, nut-free diabetic-friendly recipe.

Triple Ginger Muffins

You will need:
250g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
50ml olive oil
50ml yoghurt
4 tbsp stevia
4 tbsp agave or honey
3 eggs
1 tbsp ginger powder
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 tbsp crystallized ginger
zest of an orange
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tbsp apple organic vinegar
a pinch of salt

After baking:  150g dark melted chocolate and more crystallised ginger

Preheat the oven to 200℃.

These muffins are prepared by a very quick, all-in-one method.  Do not over-mix and use a variety of grated fresh ginger, ginger powder and crystallised ginger for a more rounded ginger flavour.

Sift the self-raising flour and baking powder twice. Place in the bowl of an electric mixer. Crop the crystallised ginger into very small pieces. Add to the mixing bowl together with all the other ingredients. Whisk everything for a minute on high speed.

Line a muffin tin with muffin cases and immediately fill the muffin cases. Scatter some more crystallized ginger pieces on top.  Bake for 15 minutes (depending on size and up to 25 minutes for giant muffins).

Remove from oven.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a bain marie. Add a couple of drops of olive oil and drizzle the chocolate over the muffins. Scatter a few small pieces of crystallised ginger and allow the chocolate to harden up before serving.

This is a nut-free, diabetic-friendly recipe. For gluten-free muffins use a ready-mix gluten-free self-raising flour.

Almond Latte with Fresh Ginger and Turmeric

You will need:
1 cup water
1 cup almond milk
¼ tsp grated fresh turmeric
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
Vanilla
1 tbsp agave or maple syrup or stevia

Place the water, vanilla, grated turmeric and ginger in a saucepan on medium heat. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Allow the mixture to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid by passing it through a sieve. Add the sweetener and the almond milk. Reheat and serve or for a frothy latte, place in a liquidizer and blend for half a minute. Serve immediately.

This is a gluten-free, lactose-free, diabetic-friendly recipe.

Lea’s new book Good Food Everyday is available in most bookshops in Malta and Gozo.You can watch Lea Cook everyday on Smash TV and find more of her recipes on www.timesofmalta.com.

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