Thursday, August 14, 2008

Carrot & Ginger Stirfry

Ginger is a fabulous thing in all its forms, bringing hot sweetness to any dish it is added to. Fresh, it's a fairly ugly looking root, all gnarled and knobbly, making it difficult to peel. Though I have discovered that it is simplicity itself to peel using the edge of a teaspoon. Try it - works every time.
I use masses of it fresh - mostly for flavour in stirfries and curries and as the essential ingredient in dal. I also like it grated into a pot of rhubarb before it cooks, it goes well with the tart sweetness. As a kid I loved the big tins of melon and ginger jam my mother used to buy - though it is many years since I have seen such a thing. Bring it back, I say, if it tastes as good as my memory recalls.

Idly checking a few web pages for a little nugget of something about ginger I came across the source of the phrase ' to ginger up'. It comes from times when slightly unscrupulous horsetraders would insert a nugget of peeled ginger into the anus of an old horse they were trying to sell. The resulting minor irritation would cause the animal to prance about with its tail up and head held high just like a much younger horse. Presumably it's also where 'geeing up' comes from too!

The recipe comes from BEYOND THE GREAT WALL BY Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I was struck by it when I first read it because of the sheer amount of ginger - it is one of the major ingredients rather than the usual flavour enhancer. I was intrigued by the sound of it and liked the idea of the visual vibrancy of the orange/gold combination mimicking the kick of the sweet spiciness. Turns out it was all this - and more.

Carrot and Ginger Stirfry

2 tablespoons peanut oil or lard
1 tablespoon minced garlic
100g ground pork
3 dried red chillies
350g carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks (1 3/4 cups)
150g ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks (1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
10 to 12 Sichuan peppercorns, lightly crushed or coarsely ground
2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste

Heat a wok or wide heavy pan over high heat. Add the oil or lard and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Toss in the garlic and stir-fry for 10 seconds or so, then toss in the pork and chillies. Stir-fry, separating the pieces of meat so all get exposed to the hot pan, until they have started to change color all over, less than 2 minutes.

Toss in the carrots and ginger and stir-fry for about a minute. Add the salt and stir-fry for another minute. Add the water, cover, and boil vigorously for about 3 minutes, then remove the lid and let the liquid boil down for a minute or two. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and soy sauce. Stir-fry for another minute, or until the carrots and ginger are tender but still firm.

Turn the stir-fry out onto a shallow bowl and serve hot or warm.

Leftovers cold next day for lunch worked a treat.
Granted it is probably not a recipe title that instantaneously gets the gastric juices flowing but don't be deceived. This is a great dish on so many levels. It is quick, clean, crisp, easy to make, you can eat it hot, warm or cold - and next day for lunch. It is really attractive to look at, smells divine and has lots of interesting textures in your mouth. Not sold? It is the kind of dish that I will almost always have the ingredients for - a few carrots, a large lump of fresh ginger, some cloves of garlic. I also keep little packs of minced pork in the freezer in 50-75g lumps for a whole variety of asian dishes - a trick well worth emulating if you cook lots of Chinese food. So for me this is a great mid week treat - on its own with rice or with another dish, which can then be a bit more finicky as your attention won't be dragged away at a critical moment.

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