Thursday, July 12, 2007

Spaghetti with Tomato and Ginger

I don't imagine that ginger is a major ingredient in many pasta dishes but this recipe from River Cafe Pasta Book makes perfect sense if you think about it. Pasta and chilli make a great combination in lots of recipes and the pungent warmth of ginger heads somewhere in the same direction.

Native to south-east Asia whose cuisine relishes its flavour, ginger has been renowned for millennia in many areas throughout the world. Ginger is mentioned in ancient Chinese, Indian and Middle Eastern writings, and has long been prized for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties. After the ancient Romans imported ginger from China almost two thousand years ago, its popularity in Europe remained centered in the Mediterranean region until the Middle Ages when its use spread throughout other countries. Although it was a very expensive spice, owing to the fact that it had to be imported from Asia, it was still in great demand. In an attempt to make it more available, Spanish explorers introduced ginger to the West Indies, Mexico and South America, and in the 16th century, these areas began exporting the precious herb back to Europe. If you want to know more, take a look at

The most amusing use I've come across for ginger creates an instant recognition. Before the First World War, it was common for mounted regiments to receive large vats of root ginger before public ceremonies, which were peeled and cut into suppositories for the horses. The burning sensation made the horses hold their tails up; this practice is called Figging or feaguing. But I haven't verified it!

This was almost a store cupboard dish last night. There is always tinned tomatoes and pasta, invariably a bigger or smaller knob of ginger in the fridge. As luck would have it I had the last of a chunk of Pecorino in the fridge that needed using up and I have a mass of marjoram in the garden so it had to be.

Spaghetti with Tomato & Ginger
350g spaghetti
80g fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 x 400g tins of peeled tomatoes drained of their juices
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 dried red chillies, crumbled
Juice of a lemon
150g aged pecorino, freshly grated
3tbs chopped marjoram
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat 3 tbs of olive oil in a thick- bottomed pan and fry the garlic until soft. Add the ginger and chillies and cook until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and season. cook over a medium heat, stirring from time to time, breaking up the tomatoes and season. This will take about half an hour. Smooth the sauce with a stick blender or pass through a blender.

Cook the spaghetti in obiling salted water until al dente. Drain and return to the pan. Over a low heat add 2 tbs of olive oil and the lemon juice and toss. Stir in half the pecorino, the tomatoes and the marhoram.

Serve with the remaining Pecorino sprinkled over and a bit of crusty bread.

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