Ginger: Spice Up Your Food, Spice Up Your Life

Ginger on Wednesday, Ginger on Friday

No, not a couplet from a popular ditty. Just a mundane reminder that, as night follows day, so the Wednesday Alphabetical of Food in On The Side comes a couple of days before a couple of recipes featuring that month's hero. There are so many choices. Ginger cheesecake and ginger pavlova have both featured in Casa Johnston in the past year; however, they are but variations on fairly well known themes. For today's delectation and delight, soup and a main. The soup is one of our favourites: the main, a dish which I'd almost forgotten about, found in the depths of my mother's 1974 cook book, The Mammy's Thesis, University of Life.

Rosie Johnston's Favourite Parsnip, Ginger & Lemon Soup

I have Lady Claire Macdonald to thank for this and many other dishes in my repertoire. If you haven't read her books I commend them to you. Although for many years she took personal charge of the kitchen at the renowned Kinloch Lodge in Skye, she is at pains to describe herself as a cook, not a chef. While I would struggle with the definitions, her recipes are within the grasp of almost everyone. Maximum impact with minimum fuss is definitely up there for me. A warning: some of her combinations and techniques may cause a raised eyebow. Trust her. She's never let me down yet. If you buy but one of her books, make it The Claire Macdonald Cookbook. This recipe is based on hers.

Buy decent sized parsnips, avoiding the thin straggly ones. The amount of butter sounds alarming. If you want to be a spoilsport, substitute 3 or 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, preferably not olive. Claire sieves her soup after blitzing. I don't, but this means that if you are chopping your ginger and lemon peel, it must be very fine. Make sure you get rid of any white pith otherwise you add an unwanted bitterness. Finally, I normally season a bit at the beginning and more at the end. For this one, I follow Lady C's advice and season at the end.


4 parsnips, peeled and cut into equal size chunks; 2 onions, peeled and chopped; 90g butter; thumb of ginger, peeled and very finely chopped, or grated;  1.1 litres chicken stock;  very finely chopped peel (or zest) of half a lemon, pith removed;  juice of half a lemon (you may want a little more); s & p.


Melt the butter and cook the onions gently until soft but not coloured. Chuck in the parsnips, ginger and lemon peel (not the juice at this stage). Cook for a few minutes, add the stock, and simmer until the parsnips are soft. (That's why you want them cut into equal sizes, not the simplest task with a parsnip.) Blitz with a hand blender. Season with salt and pepper, then add the lemon juice - you may want a little more.

Meg Johnston's Pork and Ginger Stew

The original author

This was a favourite of mine as a teenager. I haven't made it in years. Mum's recipes (like those of Elizabeth David) never specified quantites, so use your judgment. I also think a splash of dry vermouth would add an extra something, but her recipe doesn't use it, so nether will mine. Be very careful with the sour cream. Too high a heat and it will split.

Ingredients (serves 4)

600g pork fillet, either cubed or cut into medallions; 2 onions, sliced into half moons; 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed; good squeeze of tomato purée; 300ml chicken stock; 1 level tsp dried thyme; ½ level tsp powdered ginger; 250ml soured cream; butter and oil for frying.


Carefully remove any fat and sinew from the fillet and cut it how you want it. Brown it quickly in the butter and oil mixture, then remove the meat and put to one side. In the same pan cook the onions and garlic gently until the onions are soft. Stir in the tomato purée and return the pork to the pan. Add the stock, thyme and ginger and simmer gently till the pork is done. Be careful not to over cook.

When the pork is ready remove from the pan. Increase the heat and reduce the sauce to your desired consistency and return the pork. When you are ready to serve, add the soured cream and GENTLY heat.

This is good served with rice.



  1. Liz on 19th March 2021 at 6:18 pm

    Delicious. I do agree about Lady Claire. I still love her cook books. I also think Kinloch Lodge does the absolute best breakfasts I’ve had anywhere.

    • Tom Johnston on 20th March 2021 at 9:54 am

      The blog inspired me to start reading through her books again. Some of it’s a bit old school – gelatine set rings and the like – but many ideas for the future.

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