What comes to mind when you think of ginger? Asian dishes such as teriyaki, baked treats like gingerbread and ginger snaps, or perhaps a beverage along the lines of ginger ale? For many years, that was pretty much the extent of my own encounters with ginger, but today the spice represents considerably more.
In my Moroccan kitchen, for example, I use ground ginger almost daily in dishes which run the gamut from savoury soups and stewed veggies to well-seasoned chicken, meat and fish preparations. Use a little, and ginger can be described as fragrant, sweet and peppery; use a lot, and you’ll notice that it’s also a bit fiery.
The Qur’an cites ginger as a food of Paradise:
“And they will be given to drink a cup whose mixture is of ginger.” (Al-Insan:17)
There is little to be found in the Sunnah with explicit references to ginger (zanjabeel in Arabic). However, one hadith narrated by Abu Said al’ Khudri shows that the Prophet (SAW) tasted and shared some preserved ginger which he received as a gift from the Byzantine emperor. (Medicine of the Prophet)
In addition to being a remedy for colds, flus and respiratory infections, ginger is widely recognised as an effective treatment for indigestion, heartburn, diarrhoea, flatulence and nausea. Some pregnant women find that ginger alleviates the symptoms of morning sickness, while some travellers conclude that it’s useful in combatting motion sickness.
While these therapeutic qualities are notable, ginger’s chemical properties go beyond improving how one feels. Ginger is also said to improve the memory, increase sex drive, benefit the circulatory system by reducing cholesterol levels and preventing blood clots, and work as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-fungal and anti-viral. It can be used to treat headaches, muscular and joint inflammation and menstrual cramps.
Ginger in fresh rhizome and dry, ground form is available all year round. The rhizome can be refrigerated (or peeled, wrapped and frozen) to preserve its shelf-life; dry ginger should be stored in an airtight container and replaced every few months.
Although the flavour and pungency of fresh and dry ginger differ a bit, one can be substituted for the other using a ratio of 4 to 6 measures of freshly grated ginger to every 1 measure of dry.
The plethora of international dishes which call for ginger make it easy to incorporate this sunnah food into our diet. To get started, try these easy recipes:
Ginger and Honey Tea
Fresh ginger tea is a healthy concoction that can aid digestion, soothe an upset stomach and provide relief from cold and flu symptoms. Honey, another sunnah food, adds flavour and additional health benefits.
• 2 ½ cups water
• 1 ½ inch section of fresh ginger
• 2-3 tbsp honey, or to taste
1. Peel the ginger. Cut into thin slices and put it in a small pot with the water.
2. Bring the water to a boil and allow it to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or a bit longer if you prefer a stronger tea.
3. Strain the tea into cups, add honey to taste and serve.
Grilled Ginger Salmon
This Asian-influenced marinade works well with salmon, swordfish or firm fish steaks. You can also try it on chicken or turkey breasts.
• 1 kg salmon
• ½ cup orange juice
• ½ cup soy sauce
• 1/3 cup honey
• 2 tbsp Dijon style mustard (optional)
• 1½ tsp dry ground ginger
• 1½ tsp garlic powder
• Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Wash the fish. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, whisking until smooth.
2. Reserve ¼ cup of marinade and set aside.
3. Add the fish to the bowl, turning it over several times to coat it with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.
4. Remove the fish from the bowl and place over medium heat on a grill (alternatively you can use a grill pan or broiler). Cook for approximately ten minutes each side, basting occasionally with the reserved marinade. Serve.
Christine Amina Benlafquih is an expert on Moroccan Food. Her culinary creations can be found on http://moroccanfood.about.com