Skye Gyngell cooks with new-season garlic

The gently sweet flavour and smell of new-season garlic will brighten any day, says Skye Gyngell
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Gentle, sweet and soft in flavour, young, "wet" garlic is around now. Its flavour so delicate and its smell almost imperceptible when slowly cooked, it can be eaten just on its own. Roasted alongside shallots, it is lovely on toast – the cloves are not divided as they are in older bulbs, and the taste is no stronger than poached leeks.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com

To roast the garlic

In all the recipes here, the garlic has been roasted in the same way. It is the best way I have found to cook it so that it remains whole and sweet. It is important that the garlic is completely covered by the liquid, or it will oxidize and take on a blue tinge.

12 heads of garlic
500ml/17fl oz fresh chicken stock
200ml/7fl oz verjuice or white wine
1 bunch of thyme
2 fresh bay leaves
Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Wash the garlic heads and slice off two inches of their stem. Place on a roasting tin and pour over the stock and wine. Scatter over the thyme and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Cover loosely with foil and roast on the middle shelf of the oven for 40 minutes. The garlic should remain whole but will be soft. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Rabbit with new-season garlic, artichokes and white beans

Farmed rabbit, which I prefer, has a very mild flavour. It works best with flavours that are equally as mild so the meat is not overpowered. Artichokes are in season, so it's lovely to use them as often as possible.

Serves 4-6

1 rabbit (ask your butcher to prepare it for you. It should be cut into sixths: 2 hind legs, 2 forearms and the saddle, divided into 2)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced finely
4 fresh bay leaves
1 bunch of rosemary
1 tbsp fennel seeds, roasted and crushed
500ml/17fl oz dry white wine
600ml/1 pint rabbit or chicken stock
6 globe artichokes, hearts only
12 heads of roasted garlic
200g/7oz cooked white beans, such as cannellini
2 tbsp crème fraîche
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season the rabbit generously all over. Place a heavy-based pan over a medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is warm, add the rabbit pieces and brown well – this will take about 10 minutes; once brown, remove the rabbit from the pan and set aside. Add the onion, bay leaves, rosemary and fennel seeds to the pan and turn the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time. The onion should be very soft. Season with a pinch of salt and return the rabbit to the pan.

Pour over the wine and turn the heat to high. Allow the wine to bubble and reduce by a third. Then turn the heat to low once more and ladle in the stock. Cover with a lid and cook over a low heat for an hour. Add the prepared artichokes, garlic and white beans and cook for a further 20 minutes, by which time the rabbit should be very tender and the artichokes retaining just the smallest bite.

Arrange the rabbit and vegetables on a large, warm plate. Turn the heat to high and reduce the sauce for five minutes – just to thicken and intensify the flavour. Stir in the crème fraîche, adjust the seasoning and spoon over the rabbit. Serve immediately.

New-season garlic, goat's curd and radicchio

Goat's cheese is at its best in spring. Fresh, clean and sweet, it is lovely just on its own, served on toast for breakfast or spooned through simple salads in which its flavour can really shine. The sweet young garlic is a perfect accompaniment.

Serves 4

1 head of radicchio, outer leaves discarded, leaving only the inner core of the smaller leaves

Salt and pepper
The juice of half a lemon
4 tbsp mild-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
The zest of one lemon
8 roasted heads of garlic
200g/7oz very fresh goat's curd

Break up the leaves of the radicchio and rinse well under cold running water. Pat dry, place in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Squeeze over the lemon juice and add the olive oil and lemon zest. Toss together lightly with your fingertips. Arrange on a plate, then lay the garlic on top and crumble over the goat's curd. Serve immediately.

Savoy cabbage with new-season garlic and anchovy butter

Fibrous, roughly textured savoy cabbage works well with roasted new-season garlic. The anchovy butter gives a depth and salty flavour, which is very pleasant.

Serves 6

1 savoy cabbage
8 good-quality anchovy fillets
4 tbsp crème fraîche
6 roasted heads of garlic

Slice the cabbage in half then, using a sharp knife, remove the inner core and shred the leaves as finely as possible.

Put a large pot of well-salted water on to boil. Put the anchovies and crème fraîche in a smaller saucepan and place over a very low heat. Stir continuously until the anchovies disintegrate into the warm cream. Set aside. Plunge the shredded cabbage into the boiling water and cook for two minutes. Drain and place in a mixing bowl with the garlic. Stir in two-thirds of the anchovy sauce and arrange on a serving plate. Drizzle over the remaining sauce and serve while warm.

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