The thing about garlic

The thing about garlic

Garlic is something I use all the time in my kitchen. It adds depth and savouriness to anything I cook so it's hardly ever a bad choice.

Who is afraid of garlic?

Garlic is something I use almost every single day in my kitchen - definitely one of my 'desert island' ingredients!

It adds depth and savouriness to anything you cook, so it's hardly ever a bad choice (it is also bursting with many health supporting phytochemicals). It goes particularly well with tomato, greens of any kind, cucumbers or courgettes, potatoes, mushrooms, and any meat or fish. It sits very nicely alongside herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil and ginger.

'Ugh, you drown everything in garlic?!' - you might ask. And here lies the big misunderstanding about garlic: the 'garlicky' taste only dominates when using raw garlic. It's in the raw state, as used in dips, sauces and dressings (think hummus, tzatziki, pesto, etc.) that garlic imparts that familiar 'garlicky' quality that many find pungent and that tends to linger for a long time. Cooked garlic has a completely different flavour - subtle, sweet and savoury. It doesn't dominate, it enhances.

Consequently, I use raw garlic really carefully in small amounts, but when cooking with it I'm using lots (like 2-3 cloves per person or more). Sometimes I have wondered whether it's just me using garlic so liberally to enhance other flavours rather than to add a 'garlicky' note. So I checked to see what Niki Segnit has to say about garlic in her wonderful book, Flavour Thesaurus.

Adding a small amount of garlic [to ingredients] is like drawing a keyline around their flavour - everything gains a sharper definition. Garlic also adds something of a succulent quality.

Exactly. What's not to like?

A lot of recipes these days (usually of US origin found online) seem to be calling for garlic powder or granules. I find these processed forms of garlic quite whiffy, and personally, I avoid them. Fresh garlic just tastes better to me. And I make a point of staying away from anything processed. (But you may have a different opinion.)

Some find garlic fiddly to use, from getting the papery skins off each clove to crushing it. If you really find this is a problem for you, look for one of the many garlic gadgets available. Personally, I find that lightly crushing the cloves with the blade of a knife loosens the skins enough to easily slip them off. (There are a number of other 'hacks' doing the rounds - find one to suit you.)

If I'm using garlic in the oven, I usually just crush the cloves slightly, leaving on the skins (to avoid burning). If putting in a stove-top pot I'll just chop it up finely. If I'm using it in a sauce or marinade I put it through a simple garlic press.

I also love Nigel Slater's way of using a whole head of garlic cut in half in a roasting tin. This way the garlic cooks beautifully without burning and the cloves can be easily squeezed out all at once when ready (especially good added to gravy or sauce).

Last but not least: How to get that garlic smell off your hands? Rub your fingers on a stainless steel item under running water. It works amazingly well (there is a scientific explanation too). Any stainless steel item will do - I use the handle of my knife (you can even get a piece of steel 'soap' if you are so inclined).

PS. I also made a little video about using garlic.

Categories: COOK, LIBRARY


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