Ginger is often the spice relegated to back-of-pantry purgatory. It’s too well known for that. Gingerbread, ginger biscuits and ginger cake will bring it back into the fold for the most part. What about in the regional world of Indian cooking? Just like its cousin turmeric, ginger contributes to almost every dish.
What makes ginger ubiquitous is its all-embracing warmth. In a sweet context, these are the spices suited to baking and dairy-based desserts. In the savoury world, warm spices like ginger round out sharper flavours created by pungent and bitter spices, giving the mouth access to a pleasure pit-stop in its endless task of flavour identification.
In Kashmiri cooking, ginger is a savoury addition used prolifically in both its forms.
As a dried and ground spice, ginger’s heat is offset by a subtle sweetness and a bitter finish. As a fresh spice, ginger is astringent with all of the sharp and nasal-cleaning character more commonly associated with garlic and onion.
In a dish, the two variations perform different functions.
Fresh ginger has more oomph, more heat and pushes through the weight of dairy, egg and sugar that the fritters contain. Ground ginger is the warmth that we all seek when we think of gingery, wintery desserts. Using both in these sweet ginger ricotta fritters is the best way I know to tell ginger’s story in a fresh, delicious and comforting way.
Ginger top tips
• Using a very fine grater for fresh ginger means there’s no need to take time to peel its skin. Just give the root a wash before use.
• Ginger and turmeric are cousins, which makes them a natural complement. Use them together in savoury dishes to deepen that gingery profile.
• Ginger’s warmth - in fresh or dried and ground form - makes it a perfect partner for clove, nutmeg, cinnamon or mace.