Some zingy, warming root ginger electrifies and enlivens a dish like nothing else. A stalwart aromatic in Asian and Caribbean cooking, you can incorporate it into a spice paste to build a deep, broad-shouldered flavour, or finely shred it raw over your finished dish as a pungent, tongue-tingling garnish, but it also works brilliantly in western dishes, such as crème brulée.
Choose big chunky rhizomes that are firm to the touch, without any give, and with smooth, unwrinkled skin – they keep better in the fridge than small ones. Don't be timid or parsimonious with fresh ginger; think in terms of tablespoons, not teaspoons, and aim to use it up quickly when it's dripping with juice.
No wonder ginger occupies a venerable role in ayurvedic medicine as an appetite stimulant and digestive aid. It acts as a carminative (it prevents flatulence) and an intestinal spasmolytic (it soothes the intestinal tract). Modern research supports its efficacy as a safe remedy for travel sickness, and for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. Ginger also seems to have an analgesic effect on the joints. Gingerols, the potent anti-inflammatory compounds found in ginger, appear to reduce the pain, and improve the mobility, of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.