Garlic

Garlic

By
Skye Gyngell
Contains
5 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781844006212
Photographer
Jason Lowe

I find that almost everyone is seduced by the sweet smell of garlic cooking. As it emanates from the kitchen, the aroma draws you in, making you feel hungry. It is perhaps the most alluring of all smells, but to describe it is almost impossible. It is pungent, earthy and powerful most certainly, but also subtle and delicate...

Garlic has been grown since time immemorial and has a place in almost all civilisations – ancient as well as modern – in culinary, medicinal and religious contexts. Varieties range from the smaller purple-tinged Italian and Spanish bulbs to big elephant garlic, which is very mild.

We tend to associate garlic with strength and punch, but it can be used delicately in dishes, too. Generally, the more garlic is pounded or chopped, the stronger the taste. I rarely add garlic at the start of cooking, preferring to add it later – sometimes halfway through – but certainly after base flavouring ingredients such as onions, celery and carrots. The result is a fuller, softer, more satisfying flavour.

Garlic is harvested in late spring and early summer. I always look forward to new season’s spring garlic, with its long green stalk and lovely rose-tinged creamy bulb, all encased in fine, papery, ivory skin. At this time of year, the individual cloves are not yet fully formed, and the immature papery layers in between them are completely edible. I like to braise the soft heads whole in stock or wine to enjoy their sweet, tender flesh.

Garlic can also be grown at home. Try planting a single clove (or a handful) in your garden in the autumn, and come spring – if you are lucky – young green shoots will begin to appear. These shoots are good to eat too – lightly sautéed or added to salads.

Wild garlic, which is also available in the spring, is quite different. It has fragrant, long, flat dark green leaves, but no bulb. You’ll most likely come across it in damp woodlands or along riverbanks. Look out for bluebells – the chances are wild garlic will be growing alongside. I simply wash the leaves and toss them quickly in a pan with a little oil or butter to serve alongside lamb, or with the first of the season’s wild salmon.

When buying garlic, search out bulbs that are tight, firm and hard, without any discolouration or bruises. If you’ve ever eaten a clove that is discoloured and soft, you will not have forgotten its rancid taste and smell. Damaged cloves can spoil the taste of a cooked dish, so be sure to discard them. Store garlic bulbs in a cool, dry place, with good air circulation (not the fridge). Do not use garlic that has developed small green shoots. Also, if garlic is to be eaten raw, the central green shoot running through the middle of the clove should be removed, as it is indigestible.

Aïoli My version is more gentle than the classic rustic Provençal sauce prepared from stale bread, garlic and olive oil. To make it, pound 6 peeled garlic gloves to a paste with 1/2 tsp salt, using a pestle and mortar. In a bowl, lightly beat 2 organic free-range egg yolks with the pounded garlic and the juice of 1/2 lemon to combine. Measure 250ml Provençal or other mild-tasting extra virgin olive oil. Slowly begin to incorporate the oil into the garlicky base, drip by drip to begin, whisking all the time. As the sauce begins to emulsify, you can add the oil a little more quickly. When it is all added, you should have a lovely thick garlicky mayonnaise – aïoli!

Aïoli is a pungent, garlicky sauce – delicious served alongside simply poached fish or grilled shellfish, or stirred into seafood stews at the last minute. It is also lovely with raw tender young vegetables, or a salad of sliced ripe tomatoes and green beans.

Recipes in this Chapter

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