Look away right now if you are a vampire and / or on a date because this post is all about everyone’s favourite kitchen helper, the friendly head of garlic. National Garlic Day was this week and what better excuse than to celebrate these little cloves of beauty. Papery and whispy on the outside, spicy, hardy and full of punch on the inside – just like our favourite people.
But this little crescent of sultry, rich, headiness can provide us with one too many cooking faux pas, which can be all too easy to come unstuck on. Don’t go running to that awful tube of unidentified garlic ‘flavoured’ paste on the supermarket shelves just yet though! We are here to help you with all you need to know on mastering the art of garlicism. And yes, that is a word.
No time to peel, all the time to eat
We’ve all been here. The recipe for spaghetti says ‘just finely dice one onion and crush two cloves of garlic’. No problem…right? By the time you’ve snipped the woody end off, managed to burst the skin under your ENTIRE human body weight and peeled the thinner-than-Yellow-Pages film off the outside, it’s ten to nine and Dominoes is on its way. NO MORE! All you need to do, from now on, is a little bit of kitchen wizardry. Take a whole head of the good stuff, and place it in a metal bowl (it doesn’t have to be metal, just light enough for you to pick up and shake). Then place another bowl of the same size on top, and shake for all you’ve got. After about 30 seconds, take a quick sneaky peek and you should see little golden nuggets of peeled cloves tucked away under a snowstorm of peelings. You’ll never have to wait longer than a minute for garlic again.
How do I keep all these cloves in my fridge without stinking the place out?
Easy – olive oil. Take a clean, empty (obviously) jam jar and tumble the cloves in. Fill up to the top with the satisfying glug of Italy’s favourite fat and fasten the lid on tightly. Just pop out a clove whenever you need one. They’ll last for weeks like this, although you might want to label the jar in case small hands mistake them for sweets. Nasty shock.
I want to crush you! (With minimal struggle)
BY FAR the best way of preparing garlic to cook with is to crush it. It’s spreads beautifully through the dish without the unpleasant shock of being punched in the face by a huge lump of the stuff. So, if you want smooth paste and a means of releasing tension, halve a clove, sprinkle liberally with salt and smash several times with the base of a heavy saucepan. Smooshed and ready to go in 10 seconds. You tell me that’s not exciting stuff!
If you’re not inspired by now then, I hate to break it to you, but Twilight was probably more a documentary for you and you are a lost cause to us. For those of you itching to get cooking, here’s my recipe for 20 Garlic Clove Stew, as featured in my latest book ‘Take One Veg’. Enjoy!
GARLIC AND WHITE BEAN STEW
Serves 4 – Prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: 40 minutes
Inspired by the Spanish Caldo Gallego stew, this is a beautiful recipe with simple
ingredients. Garlic is the star of the show, but don’t be alarmed; the cloves soften in
lengthy cooking and provide a gentle backdrop to the white beans. I suggest to serve with
a fresh gremolata, but try natural yogurt or pesto, if you prefer.
20 garlic cloves (about 2 bulbs)
25g salted butter
2 celery sticks, finely sliced into crescents
2 thyme sprigs
200ml white wine
1 x 400g can cannellini beans, drained
1 x 400g can butter beans, drained
2 bay leaves
250ml vegetable stock
75g young leaf spinach
3 tablespoons creme fraiche
For the gremolata
2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons
1) Put the garlic cloves in a medium bowl with their papery jackets still on. Pour over boiling hot water, about 300ml, and leave for 2 minutes. Remove the garlic from the water, keeping the water for later and, as soon as the garlic is cool enough, remove the skins and cut each clove in half lengthways.
2) Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Add the garlic cloves, celery and thyme and cook slowly for 3–4 minutes, being careful not to colour the mix. Pour over the wine and increase the heat, allowing it to bubble and reduce by half.
3) Stir the beans, bay leaves, vegetable stock and garlic water into your pan. Reduce the heat to low and allow the pot to bubble at a languorous pace for 30 minutes, until the sauce has both thickened and reduced in quantity. Use a potato masher to gently mash some of the mixture at this stage, making the sauce a little thicker. Stir through the young leaf spinach just before serving and allow the leaves to wilt in the warmth of the stew.
4) Meanwhile, make the gremolata by combining the parsley, crushed garlic and lemon zest and juice.
5) Once the beans are beautifully tender remove the pan from the heat. Stir through the crème fraîche and season well. Serve in bowls with a spoonful of gremolata over the top.