Let’s raise a cheer for Garlic! A plant of multitudinous varieties, properties, and flavours. For a plant so modest in size and relatively easy to grow it yields so much. Not only can you add it to any dish for a moreish, umami taste, it’s also considered to contribute a great deal to good health and was probably used by ancient civilizations more for medicinal purposes than gastronomic ones. The balance these days is the other way round, and grown garlic, as opposed to wild garlic, which is abundant in Ireland, is thankfully now a staple in the cuisine of more northern European climbs.
You’ll have to excuse my soft spot for garlic, but it has played a significant role in my life. Back when I first moved to Ireland I ran a small restaurant in Co. Clare. A friend who was coming to visit for a few days was dropped off at my place by a strange man. As we were all in the kitchen chatting he offered to help out. His name was Nick. I handed him three heads of garlic and I’d never seen anyone chop them so fast! This, I thought, is the guy for me...
Garlic likes to be stored in cool, dark and dry places, just like in our new Apple pattern Garlic Jar.
Love stories aside, in many cultures garlic is traditionally thought to bring good luck, to keep you safe, as well as ward off evil spirits. It can offer protection to some whilst its pungent smell repels others. If a neatly plaited bunch of it dangling above a doorway or window doesn’t put off haunting demons and dark energies, the stinking breath of those inside should. Some tips there for how to be fully prepared for upcoming Halloween or any such general deluge of dark spirits. You can also keep a secret clove in your pocket for good measure.
The garlic plant is not so prone to diseases or pests but it can help you ward them off yourself as well as in your garden. In terms of its health properties, it’s thought to be able to boost our immune systems and help us fight common colds and flu, to help lower blood pressure and to be a natural antiseptic amongst many other things. To ward off garden pests you can make your own garlic spray. Steep garlic in boiled water and squirt it onto particularly prone plants to protect them from the desecrating mouths of slugs. Apparently rabbits and moles don’t like garlic either and it can act as a natural mosquito repellent when it comes through the skin in your sweat. If you really want to make sure you’re protected there’s nothing to stop you covering yourself in your garlic spray, or ‘Eau de Garlic’. Definitely one of the more ‘interesting’ of perfumes.
There’s nothing worse than a hint of garlic about your morning porridge and as someone who prefers to use wooden utensils for cooking, I’ve had to mark some up so visitors don’t mix up my garlic and non-garlic spoons. These ‘No Garlic Please’ spoons will soon be available in our Country Shop.
Actually, you can’t add garlic to everything. There are some foods where garlic has absolutely no place, particularly in the baking of sweet things. Having said that, if you feel like playing your own trick on those knocking on your door at Halloween and you’ve already used up the one of swapping in Brussels sprouts for Ferrero Roche chocolates, make roasted garlic muffins by substituting the fruit or chocolate element in any muffin or cupcake recipe with a few roasted and squeezed out garlic cloves. They’ll be sweet, but odd. The key to this is to ice the cakes (with garlic butter icing perhaps?) so beautifully they are utterly irresistible. Speaking of garlic butter, our recipe for the most divine of garlic butters is below.
Would you dare to eat these delectable-looking sweetmeats? Can you trust they are really Eccles Cakes or actually Roasted Garlic Pastries? Are these truly Chocolate Hearts or actually Black Garlic Tarts? By the way, I was only tricking about the ‘No Garlic Please’ spoons being on sale…
Garlic has such an incredible spectrum of flavours depending on which of the diverse ways it is prepared and then cooked, or not if you use it raw and piquant. Smoked, pickled, roasted… garlic can be prepared in many ways to many ends and can be a key element in making a dish work. I’ve started roasting whole heads so I have a ready supply for sauces and dressings. Once roasted, the garlic can be kept in the fridge for a couple of weeks - if you need that long to use it all up. I can get through a head of garlic in a few days!
There are many other varieties of garlic than are commonly available in shops and as it’s relatively easy to grow it’s worth experimenting with different kinds either in a garden or equally in pots. Hardneck varieties can have more complex flavours and you can also use the scapes, or top part of the plant, to add to salads or whizz into a kind of pesto. This way you are using up the whole plant, much like you can with wild garlic.
Garlic is so venerated in some places that there are garlic festivals all over the world with garlic products aplenty. This blog is my way of honouring that most versatile, generous, and in my case influential, of plants - a mini garlic festival of sorts.
Three cheers for Garlic!
RECIPE - Forgotten Garlic Butter
I happened upon this method quite by chance. I meant to only soften some butter in a low oven and only remembered to get it out once the butter had completely melted, hence the name! So I had to think of something else to do with it. Putting the crushed garlic into warmed butter helps the garlic flavour to become slightly more mellow and sweet.
100g softened slightly salted butter
3 cloves of garlic
Pinch of dried oregano
Pinch of dried sage
Tablespoon of fresh flatleaf parsley, chopped
1. Place the butter in a ramekin and then into the oven at around 160ºC for 15 minutes or until it has melted completely.
- Crush the garlic cloves into the melted butter, add the dried herbs and mix.
- Leave to cool back to room temperature and solidify. This can take a few hours.
- Add the chopped parsley and stir the butter to spread all the flavours evenly, then refrigerate.
- Use to make garlic bread, or simply spread on toast, melt onto hot new potatoes or in mashed potato, add to sauces and vegetables when stir-frying. It should keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.