Take root: Fresh ginger is perfect for creating healthy, refreshing dishes

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A lot of people are put off by the thought of ginger – maybe it's the powdered stuff that gives it a bad reputation. But fresh root ginger is quite another story and I always keep a piece in my fridge – it comes in useful for all sorts of things, from making a healing and refreshing tea to creating a fragrant Asian broth. Occasionally, you also see the fresh pink ginger in Asian supermarkets – this is very young ginger, before the skin forms, which is very tender and not too overpowering. This is the stuff that often gets pickled for serving with sushi and sashimi. Then there is crystallised ginger and preserved ginger in syrup, which have their uses in puddings and sweets.

Halibut en papillote with ginger

Serves 4

Fish 'en papillote' means food baked in the oven in a paper parcel. You don't see it served often in restaurants these days, but it's a lovely way to cook healthy fish recipes. I've used greaseproof paper here but in the past have also experimented with roasting bags which work a treat.

4 halibut steaks, weighing 250-300g
50g root ginger, peeled and finely shredded
2 medium green chillies, trimmed, seeded and thinly sliced (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A couple of tablespoons of olive oil
4 circles of greaseproof or white baking parchment, about 25cm in diameter
1tbsp flour mixed with water to form a thin paste
A few sprigs of coriander, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Season the fish, lay each piece in the centre of the circles of greaseproof paper and scatter the ginger and chillies on top and spoon a little olive oil over. Brush or smear some of the flour paste around the edge of the paper and crimp the edges by folding and rolling the paper over at the edges by about a centimetre or so to form a seal all the way around. If it's not sticking, secure with 3 paper clips around the edge. Bake for about 15 minutes then place the en papillote on plates, cut open with scissors; scatter on the coriander and chillies, if desired.

Gingered rhubarb compote

Serves 4-6

Early season UK forced rhubarb has an affinity with ginger – with added sugar or honey you get an almost sweet and savoury flavour which in a compote like this makes a great accompaniment to ice-creams and sorbets, or simply with a spoonful of mascarpone or cream and a brandy snap biscuit (see overleaf).

300g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1-2cm pieces
60g root ginger, peeled and grated
150g caster sugar

To serve

Ice-cream or mascarpone

Melt the sugar in a pan with 150ml water and the ginger, bring to the boil and simmer for a minute, then stir in the rhubarb, simmer for a minute then remove from the heat, cover and leave to cool, stirring every so often. Once cool, transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Serve with ice-cream or mascarpone and a brandy snap.

Chocolate ginger shards

Serves 4

This a simple way to make after-dinner chocolates – and easier than truffles, too.

300g good-quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
100g crystallised stem ginger, finely chopped

Put the chocolate into a bowl over a pan of simmering water for a few minutes, stirring every so often until it has melted. Stir in the stem ginger and remove from the heat. Line a tray with clingfilm and pour the chocolate mixture on and spread it out to about half a centimetre thick. Refrigerate for an hour or so, then remove from the tray and clingfilm and break into shard-like pieces.

Brandy snaps

Makes about 10-15

These are perfect with ice-cream. Start by making a circular template from an old plastic container (an ice-cream box, for instance). It needs to be about the size of a cereal bowl – it's handy if you leave a thumb-sized piece at the end to hold on to. Cut out a hole in the centre to about 1cm within the edge, and you have a template over which to spread the mix.

125g soft butter
125g glucose
125g caster sugar
125g strong flour
1tsp ground ginger
The finely grated zest of 1 orange

Gently warm the butter and glucose in a pan. Transfer to a bowl; slowly mix in the rest of the ingredients to form a smooth paste. Store in the fridge until required. Place the template on a non-stick oven tray, spread a thin layer of the mix over the template then lift it up to leave a thin circle of the mix. Repeat to fill the tray; bake for 6-8 minutes. Leave to cool so the brandy snaps stay as flat biscuits, or roll them over a rolling pin or bottle to make them curved.

Store in an airtight container for up to 48 hours.

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