Saturday, September 16, 2006

Weekend Herb Blogging #50

Weekend Herb Blogging takes a trip to Milano, Italy where it's hosted by Piperita of The Kitchen Pantry. Oddly enough I'll be using two ingredients that aren't associated with the typical Italian kitchen - namely, Ginger and Lemongrass.

ginger & lemongrass

Ginger is believed to have its origins in either China or India and it has a long history, dating back to the writings of Confucius.

It is classed as a rhizome - when fresh it has a truly unique aroma which is both sweet yet earthy. Just harvested young ginger has a green and pink tone to it's soft skin, as it ages this skin becomes thicker and darker - it's texture changing from soft to fibrous. When choosing you should look for those that are plumb and firm and bypass those that feel dry and look wrinkled.

It's probably one of the more versatile spices, able to be found in various forms, be it candied, crystallised, dried, pickled, powdered or preserved in syrup - it's uses covering the whole gamut, be they sweet, savoury or liquid.

Medicinally it is used to treat nausea and motion sickness - something that Mythbusters even proved was true. Ginger drinks improve digestion and blood circulation, especially useful in treating gout. It's also an anti-oxidant rich food.

Though it's not all rosy for ginger - this is no longer a problem for Paalo but those with gallstones should avoid ginger as it encourages the production of bile.

Lemongrass is a staple herb of many Asian cuisines and it's popularity has soared here in Australia. It contains the essential oil Citral which gives it it's lemon scent. It's a tropical grass that is indigenous to Southern India and Sri Lanka.

Predominately the base of the plant is used for curry pastes or soups- look for those that are bulbous with a delicate pink hue to the outer layers and a crisp white stem. The upper section is used to make tea

Lemongrass is known for it's antiseptic properties - often found in food rubs, it's a natural deodoriser. Lemongrass oil is used to treat certain skin complaints and muscle pain - as a stress reliever, a few drops of this natural oil in a burner produces a calming atmosphere.

Like ginger there are some provisos - don't use it on children, glaucoma suffers and those with damaged skin or skin hypersensitivity.

In Chinese medicine, lemongrass is used to treat colds and coughs. It's considered to be a diuretic, stimulant and tonic as it encourages digestion.

I've decided to put these two ingredients together to create a tangy tonic that should do wonders for the digestive system - an extremely simple cordial that is perfect for those warmer days, and if you feel that way inclined, it's excellent teamed with a little vodka.

refreshing

Ginger and Lemongrass Cordial

175 grams ginger, peeled and sliced finely
1 stalk lemongrass
1½ cups sugar
2 cups water
1 lemon, juiced

This recipe is made to be mixed with water - I like to use sparkling mineral water to give it that fizzy lift without having to go the ginger beer route and deal with the sometimes explosive use of yeast.

If the ginger is very young, you won't need to peel it - just slice it as finely as you can.

With the lemongrass, chop off the woody tip - as it is hard, just chop it roughly into chunks. With the base, roughly smash it with a kitchen mallet or the handle of your knife - this loosens the fibres. Slice this into fine rings.

Place a saucepan over a medium heat and add the sugar, water and lemon juice. Stir until the sugar just dissolves then add the sliced ginger and lemongrass. Let this slowly simmer for 15 - 20 minutes - you want the syrup to reduce and thicken and the lemongrass and ginger to release their flavours.

When the time has elapsed, turn off the heat and let it sit until cold.

Strain this into a bottle - discarding the ginger and lemongrass. You'll notice that your cordial has really taken on the colour of the ginger, giving it a pink-orange tone.

Depending on how strongly flavoured you like your drink, this works in roughly 1 part cordial to 2 parts water.

mixing

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8 comments:

  1. I don't think I've ever actually seen young ginger - always the brown, fibrous older counterpart! This cordial looks fabulous and the colour from the ginger is marvellous!

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  2. Hi Ellie - I tend to find the younger ginger in some Asian grocers or some of the organic stores, it's got a totally different feel when you handle it, you can feel the moisture in your hand and the skin is almost flake the skin off like you can with new potatoes. If you ever go to Prahran Market - Ripe the Organic Grocer usually has some really lovely ginger. The lemongrass just rounds the ginger off nicely and this is my summer drink of choice - super refreshing and tasty.

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  3. I haven't seen young ginger either! Love learning new things from you. I love both ginger and lemongrass, but for some reason lemongrass is very hard to find here. Even the Asian markets don't always have it. I tried the dried lemongrass from Penzeys, which is pretty good for soup, but not much good for anything else.

    The combination in your drink sounds just awesome.

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  4. Thanks Kalyn - it's best in something like this to get fresh lemongrass. Adding a bit more lemon juice works quite well too.

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  5. I always say the same thing...
    I love drinks with ginger in, the spicier the better.

    I must be an addict.

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  6. Hi Scott - ginger just is so refreshing.

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  7. Add me to the people who haven't had access to young ginger either. Now I feel I must have it! The drink looks so refreshing--I love ginger and lemongrass.

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  8. Thanks Sher - if you can't find the young ginger than just use the freshest looking ginger available - you'll still get those ginger flavours through the drink

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