Joys of Ginger

Ginger has many curative properties…

When my tall and slim barn house was being built, I had the pleasure of living beside the construction site in the old flood-prone and about-to-be-knocked-down house right next to it. I watched the little building grow bit by bit, floor by floor, day by day. Before long, I was able to climb in and explore inside, seeing my dream of a barn concept actually taking shape, exposed beams and all. With the joy came the realisation that this very likely would be the last house I’d ever have built for me. But my interest in architectural concepts would be as constantly refreshed as there are empty plots in the world waiting to be built on. In recent years two projects stood out for me as outstanding in their boldness and “greenness”.


Ginger duck salad with green tea dressing.

Biomimicry – design based on natural systems – is the principle upon which East Gate Centre, a mid-rise shopping and office complex in Harare, Zimbabwe, was designed – by architect Mick Pearce – and built. No conventional air-conditioning or heating was installed in this African complex. Yet the whole building stays regulated year round using methods inspired by the self-cooling homes of African termites. These termites build gigantic mounds, the interior of which must be kept at a constant temperature to nurture the fungus which they farm inside the mound and use as their primary food. The mimicry works with the ventilation system of air being drawn in constantly by fans on the first floor. The air is either warmed or cooled by the building mass depending on which is hotter, the building’s concrete or the air. It is then vented into the building’s floors and offices before exiting via chimneys at the top. It was built in the 1990s and people who had been in the centre attested to it being really quite cool. Sadly it is now largely empty as Zimbabwe goes through a difficult time economically.

To serve six


4!duck legs (about 450g each)!

125ml! mushroom soya sauce!

60ml! soya sauce!

4 tbsp! rice vinegar!

3 tbsp! sake!

65g! sugar!

1/2!small onion, thinly sliced crosswise!

1!star anise!

1 tbsp! finely grated ginger!

3 tbsp! julienned ginger!

1!garlic clove, smashed!

2 tbsp! vegetable oil!

1/4 tsp! powdered green tea, plus more for dusting!

1!Asian pear, cored and cut into thin wedges!

75g! mixed salad greens!

1 cup!finely shredded cabbage!


1. Preheat the oven to 160C/fan 140C. Put the duck legs in a casserole. Add both soya sauces, the three tablespoons rice vinegar, sake, sugar, onion, star anise, grated ginger and garlic. Add enough water to just cover and bring to the boil. Cover the casserole and transfer it to the oven. Braise the duck for 1 1/2 hours, or until it is very tender. Remove the duck legs from the liquid and let cool. Discard the duck skin and braising liquid. Pull the meat from the bones in large shreds.

2. In a bowl, whisk one tablespoon rice vinegar with the oil and the 1/4 tsp of green tea. Season with salt. Add the Asian pear, salad greens and cabbage and toss. Transfer to plates, top with the shredded duck and julienned ginger, sprinkle with green tea powder and serve.

Soya-ginger flank steak with grilled aubergine.

The other project is still in the future, but a very near future. The Dubai rotating skyscraper is due to be completed in 2010. In a world of high-rise living, a lot of people spend a lot of time pondering which view to choose when they buy into skyward apartments. Architect David Fisher settles that dilemma by designing an 80-storey apartment building where none of the tenants will be able to claim the best view as each floor rotates individually and can complete a 360 degree survey of the Dubai skyline between one and three hours. The indefinite rotation time frame is another great wonder. It is powered by wind, normally a problem for most skyscrapers. Here the architect has harnessed it to turn the wind turbines located between each floor. Solar panels installed on the roof of each rotating floor will also generate more than enough electricity for the building. A self-powered skyscraper. How much more green can you get! It is reported that already over 1,100 people are on the waiting list for one of the 200 apartments going from $3.7 to $36 million dollars (126 million to 1.23 billion baht).

To serve four


1 kg!piece flank steak!

125ml! soya sauce!

60ml! lime juice!

2 tbsp! finely grated ginger!

60ml! extra virgin olive oil!

1!medium aubergine, about 700g, cut lengthwise into eight spears!


1. Using a small, sharp knife, score the flank steak on both sides in a shallow crosshatch pattern and transfer to a shallow baking dish. In a bowl, combine the soya sauce, lime juice and ginger. Pour 2/3 cup of the soy marinade over the flank steak and turn to coat. Let the steak stand for 10 minutes. Reserve the remaining marinade.

2. Meanwhile, light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush two tablespoons of the olive oil over the cut sides of the aubergine and season with salt and pepper. Remove the steak from the marinade and pat dry. Brush the steak with the remaining olive oil and season with pepper. Grill the steak over moderately high heat, turning occasionally for about 10 minutes for medium rare. Simultaneously grill the aubergine until tender and browned, 10 minutes. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for five minutes. Thinly slice the meat against the grain. Transfer the meat and aubergine to plates, drizzle with the reserved marinade and serve.

Oriental chicken wings.

Let’s get back down to earth, and in fact, let’s delve underneath it and dig up some really pungent edible rhizomes for our cooking this week. Ginger is my favourite spice. I love it in all forms – fresh or powdered. The two are not interchangeable, however. Ground ginger is natural in baked goods. Where would ginger snaps and gingerbread be without it? And where would a lot of Chinese food be without fresh ginger, either grated, minced or julienned? It is said that ginger is among the first Oriental spices to be introduced to Europe because it could be carried as a living plant on the ships that sailed from the Far East. That would explain the numerous recipes for Western food that list ginger as a main ingredient.

Try the soya-ginger flank steak with grilled aubergine. You don’t see the ginger, but you can definitely smell it. Two tablespoons of it, finely grated, goes into the marinade, which even for 10 to 15 minutes manages to penetrate into the scored steak to give it that heady aroma. By the way, a tip for grating ginger – freeze it first. Also, don’t forego the aubergine. Simply grilled, it goes very well with the steak, and is a lot healthier than French fries. For a stronger presence, use as much of finely julienned ginger as you can stand in the ginger duck salad with green tea dressing. Raw ginger can be quite hot, but remember that ginger was used a medicine long before it was used as a culinary ingredient. In my family, ginger tea, made by perfuming a light syrup with plenty of sliced ginger, is drunk hot as a digestive, and ginger has proven effective against nausea and diarrhoea. So no harm can really come to you from ginger.

To serve six


1 kg!chicken wings!

4 tbsp! soya sauce!

2 tbsp! lime juice!

1 tbsp! grated ginger!

2 tsp! honey!

2 tbsp! tomato ketchup!


1. Cut tips off wings and cut wings in half at the joint. Mix remaining ingredients together, add wings and turn to coat. Leave to marinate, covered, for several hours in the refrigerator. Drain and arrange wings on a greased grill rack. Grill under a preheated grill for about five minutes. Turn, brush with marinade and grill for a further five to 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Roasted red curry carrots with ginger and garlic.

Add grated ginger to a chicken wing marinade and the name Oriental chicken wings makes sense, and also makes great taste. Grilled chicken wings are such a social food. A heaping plate in front of a ball game or a good movie on television will disappear in a flash. But to out-Oriental them all, make roasted red curry carrots with ginger and garlic. Curry and ginger. It gives carrots a culture shock but what a taste explosion.


To serve six


1 tbsp! vegetable oil!

15g! unsalted butter, softened!

1/2tsp! Thai red curry paste!

450g! carrots, cut crosswise on the diagonal 1/4in thick!

1 tbsp! julienned ginger!

1!garlic clove, thinly sliced!

60ml! water!


1. Preheat the oven to 210C/fan 190C. In a baking dish, combine the oil, butter and curry paste. Add the carrots, ginger and garlic, season with salt and toss to coat. Add water and cover the dish lightly with foil.

2. Roast the carrots for 30 minutes, or until just tender. Remove the foil and roast for 10 minutes longer, or until the carrots are browned in spots and the liquid in the dish has evaporated. Serve warm or at room temperature