Ginger is my most favourite of the spices – even more so than nutmeg. I love it in stir-fries, biscuits, gingerbread, drinks….the list is endless – as are the flavour pairings. I rarely now make a Key Lime Pie or Lemon Cheesecake without adding ginger to the buttery biscuit base, or a sprig of mint to Schweppes Ginger Ale in the summer (with a squeeze of lime!). I have also added orange zest to ginger biscuits and cake in order to impart an immediate exoticism to the flavour. I am not a fan of every combination however; I do not for example, particularly like chocolate with ginger (I realise I am pretty much alone on this) and I also agree with Niki Segnit’s opinion on ginger with rhubarb. I find the spice overpowers its aromatic berry notes and can think of many other pairings infinitely more suitable to imparting sweetness and flavour (maple syrup and vanilla is especially rewarding).
I have kept ginger in all its forms – fresh, in a jar, tube, powdered, but now my preferred and most convenient form is frozen – thank you Waitrose (although there is nothing stopping you from mincing fresh ginger and freezing it yourself). I also still keep powdered (Bart’s is definitely worth paying more for) and candied ginger for baking (always left over after Christmas, very handily).
One of ginger’s closest friends, in my opinion, is fish, and specifically, oily fish. My aunt first introduced me to this. She makes a sublime side of salmon, infused with ginger and enrobed in delicate buttery shortcrust pastry shaped and decorated to resemble the fish itself. It sits proudly on the table, as if the centrepiece of a Regency feast, and is sublime with salad and jersey potatoes.
In homage to that dish (which I confess I am yet to have a crack at myself), and because I had four salmon steaks in need of eating, I decided to make a salmon en croute, which I often do, but this time flavoured with ginger. I also had some lemons which had seen better days, so used the zest to add some subtle citrus notes.
Normally, I would simply wrap the salmon in pastry, and bake, and they are fine, but to add an extra challenge, and because I was interested in whether it would make much of a difference, I decided to bake the bases first.
Ingredients – Serves 4
4 slim salmon steaks
750g butter puff pastry (I confess I last made puff pastry for my O’ level in 1985)
100g cream cheese
I heaped tsp minced ginger
Zest of one lemon
Salt & pepper
Egg for glazing
– Mix the cream cheese, ginger and lemon together with a pinch of salt and black pepper
– Roll out the pastry into a rectangle until 2mm thick
– This bit is quite tricky: Cut four rectangles, which your salmon steaks will fit in the centre of with a 2cm all round.
– Cut another four rectangles 1cm wider all round and put in fridge
– Place a piece of baking parchment over the pastry and then a pan, or another heavy baking tray which will basically stop the pastry form rising (meille feuille are made this way)
– Bake in the oven for 10 mins, but check that they are nicely crisp and browned before taking them out)
– Cool slightly
– Strip the skin from the salmon by sliding a knife under the fish and away from you.
Place a salmon steak in the centre of each strip of pastry and divide the cream cheese mix over the top of each one. Be careful not to put too much on – you don’t want it leaking out. You can always warm any spare cream cheese with a spot of cream and serve as a sauce on the side.
– Place the larger pieces of pastry over the top and crimp.
– Glaze with egg and grind some salt and pepper over the top.
– Put two tiny slits at each end to allow some of the steam to escape.
– Bake for 25 minutes
I served this with some Charlotte potatoes (sadly Jerseys are a few months away) and garden peas. The bases were incidentally, extra crispy and definitely worth doing for a special dinner (but perhaps wasted on the kids!)