Garlic is indispensable in many cuisines. Before preparation, a whole clove has only a mild bouquet; it is only marginally stronger when sliced, but it has a very powerful flavour with a lingering aftertaste and aroma once chopped or crushed. The flavour is sharp, with a lot of punch for such a small ingredient.
A mature head of garlic contains anywhere from 6 to 24 individual cloves that release a notoriously strong aroma when crushed. There are two main types of garlic bulbs: softneck and hardneck (or rocambole). Softneck has a fibrous stem that dries into a grasslike top that can be braided. Pleasingly fragrant hardneck garlic has a long hard central stem surrounded by firm, easy-to-peel cloves with an intense flavour.
- Peeled cloves should be a clean creamy white without blemish. Make sure that the bulbs are closely packed and firm.
- Store garlic in a cold dry place, away from strong light.
There are different schools of thought on how to crush garlic; here are three suggestions.
Trim the root end from a garlic clove, place it in a mortar and give it one blow with a pestle to release the skin. Discard the skin, then crush the flesh with a tiny amount of salt to absorb the juices that might otherwise be lost. The salt also prevents the garlic from flying out of the mortar.
Place the unpeeled garlic on a chopping board, cover with the flat blade of a knife and press hard. This releases the skin, which should be removed, then press again before finely chopping the flesh with a tiny amount of salt. Wash the chopping board and knife with hot soapy water to remove any odours.
If you have a garlic press, leave the garlic clove unpeeled and cut off the root end. Place the clove cut end down in the press. Crush the garlic clove into a small bowl, or directly into the cooking pot. The garlic skin can be removed from the press in one neat piece, making the press easier to clean.
Garlic is an essential ingredient in thousand of dishes from around the globe. Along with ginger and onion it forms a “trinity” of flavours that is familiar in Cape Malay, Oriental and Asian cuisines.
Garlic is also widely used in Western cooking — roasted as whole cloves or cut into slivers and inserted into meat, or cooked in sauces and casseroles. It flavours savoury butters, dressings and sauces for pasta, fish, poultry, meat, game and vegetables.
Garlic butter is the classic accompaniment for snails, and it is served with shellfish or fish steaks. Alternatively, it can be spread on sliced French bread and baked in foil.
Raw garlic is used in salad dressings and some sauces, particularly in aïoli and rouille. For just a hint of garlic in a salad, rub the inside of the salad bowl with a cut clove of garlic.
Garlic products include purée, dried flakes and garlic salt, but it’s best to use fresh garlic wherever possible.
When frying, never allow the garlic to brown or else it will taste bitter.
Category: Spices and Herbs
Sub Category: Spice
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