Food: In the pink

Simon Hopkinson With chillis or chicken, in soup, or with bread: 10 great things to do with garlic. Photograph by Jason Lowe
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Indy Lifestyle Online
No beating about the bush this week, simply 10 of the very best recipes for garlic. Keep them to hand for all those bushels you have lugged back from St Remy de Provence this year: pink, flaky, and ready to peel. Just like you.

1) Deep-fried garlic cloves

There is, I believe, a French term for these dear little crusted cloves, but I can't for the life of me remember it. Whatever they're called, they are absolutely delicious. Try them as a winning contrast to the garlic purees (following), using each clove to wipe up a smear of puree before collecting a slice of lamb, say. As you can imagine, the three components of this forkful are a most agreeable conglomeration.

30 large cloves peeled garlic

500ml light chicken stock

seasoned flour for dusting

2 small eggs, beaten

8 tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs

oil for deep frying

Put the garlic cloves in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and drain. Repeat, twice. Finish cooking, in the chicken stock, until just tender. Drain. Roll in flour, then egg and finally breadcrumbs. Deep-fry in the oil for a couple of minutes until golden and crisp. Drain on to kitchen paper.

2) Mild and creamy garlic puree

Compared with the following recipe, this one is as mild as milk. The secret here is the triple blanching of the garlic cloves, which reduces their pungency to a soft and mellow sweetness - more onion-like, perhaps, but retaining the distinctive whiff. I like to serve this as a loose and balmy salve over slices of pink roast lamb, its own juices supplying all that is necessary in terms of gravy.

30 large cloves peeled garlic

500ml light chicken stock

1 dsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp redcurrant jelly

75g melted butter

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt and pepper

a little warmed double cream (optional)

Follow the initial steps of the previous recipe, but this time finish cooking the garlic in the stock until very soft. Drain as before, and then reduce the stock by half. Blend in a liquidiser with all the other ingredients until very smooth. If you think the puree is too thick, add some cream to loosen it.

3) Nick Lander's pungent garlic puree

A few years back, I was served this powerful relish with a good saignant French steak while staying in the friendly Lander French house - a fine and proper simple town-house it is, too - just within the hefty hurl of a haricot blanc from cassoulet cite, Carcassonne. I seem to remember polishing off the pot, smearing the very remnants of it on to my finger, it was so very good.

3 plump heads of garlic, peeled

1 large tub of creme fraiche

salt and freshly ground white pepper

Simmer the garlic cloves in water with a little salt, until just tender. Drain. Puree in a food processor, but leave a little coarse. Tip into bowl and cool. Add the creme fraiche and beat with a whisk until thick. Add more salt if necessary and grind in plenty of white pepper. Serve at room temperature.

4) Garlic soup

As far as I know, the simplest garlic soup of all remains the Spanish one. This is called sopa de ajo and may, or may not, contain eggs. All versions usually have some sort of bread floating around and olive oil as the lubricator, but the basic liquid in all cases is simply water; although, I have to admit, a light chicken stock can hardly spoil the thing. But tradition is tradition and should be respected for whatever reason.

According to Janet Mendel in her fine book Traditional Spanish Cooking (Garnet Publishing, pounds 14.95), in the Balearic Islands the soup is made using tomatoes and green peppers, too, and is called oliaigua - literally "garlic water". In Galicia, it is made with local rye bread and eggs, and is traditionally served to newlyweds. Now if the happy couple were to then up sticks to Andalusia, it is there thought fit for the babe to be weaned on the stuff. Lucky child. Here is Janet Mandel's Madrid version (serves 4).

6 tbsp olive oil

6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

300g country bread, cubed

1 tsp paprika

1.75 litres boiling water (or broth)

2 tsp salt

4 eggs

chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a large pot and add the garlic and bread. Fry until lightly golden, then stir in the paprika. Add the boiling water or broth and cover. Simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes. The bread should almost dissolve into the liquid. Poach four eggs in the soup. Ladle each into hot bowls, adding more soup. Scatter with plenty of parsley. (I like to add a trickle of sherry vinegar to each serving.)

5) Poulet Canaille

I first came across this "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic" thing many years ago, under the name of poulet canaille. I haven't a clue what the name means, nor where it originated (it does not always matter), or whether it was just made up because it sounded "French". What I do know, however, is that Sue and Tim Cummings used to cook it at their small restaurant, Cranes, in Salisbury, circa 1973, for it was published in The Good Cook's Guide (an offshoot of The Good Food Guide, and one of my favourite recipe books) the following year. As the couple had previously worked for the legendary George Perry-Smith at the Hole in the Wall, Bath, some years before, I hazard a guess that they may have taken the dish with them from there (serves 4).

2 small roasting chickens (about 800g each)

salt and pepper

50g butter

2 tbsp olive oil

20 large cloves garlic

Joint the chickens and season. Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed dish until foaming. Add the chicken joints and fry on both sides until well coloured. Throw in the peeled garlic, cover the pan and reduce the heat to the merest flicker. Cook for 25 minutes, turning the pieces occasionally and shaking the garlic cloves to the bottom of the pot. Serve the chicken with all its buttery, garlicky juices, accompanied by baked potatoes and a crisp green salad (a cos lettuce would be good here).

6) Grilled lobster with garlic butter

The following recipe for garlic butter is the only one you will ever need. It is fabulously pungent and remains the vehicle that drives flavour into snails, although good fresh ones have an interesting taste all of their own (you don't believe me, I know.)

When smeared on to the halves of a freshly killed lobster - by that I mean a live and kicking critter (no letters, please; it is a very quick death) - the results are astonishingly good. The combination of fresh seafood, garlic, butter, and the freshest parsley is so damned sexy, its aroma alone can cause swooning in the streets of, say, Nice, Barcelona, and even Shepherd's Bush when I myself feel moved to hew an homard. (Serves 2)

250g softened butter

25g finely chopped garlic

40g parsley leaves, finely chopped

15g dry breadcrumbs

25ml Pernod

3/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

good pinch cayenne pepper

3-4 drops of Tabasco

2 lobsters

Mix all the ingredients for the butter together and put into a bowl. Have the fishmonger dispatch two beautiful live native lobsters (approximately 500-600g each) by cutting them in half lengthways - or do it yourself if you know how. Remove the stomach sack and anal tract. Crack the claw shells with the back of a heavy knife. Smear plenty of butter over the flesh of the lobsters and some over the claws. Bake in a tray on the top shelf of a very hot oven, for 15-25 minutes, basting from time to time. Finish off under a hot grill to give a final burnish. Eat all alone with a squeeze of lemon.

7) Garlic bread

The simplest of tasty gastronomic pleasures. I would rather eat a whole baguette of home-made garlic bread than a supermarket pizza - I would actually rather eat a Frey Bentos Steak and Kidney Pie than a supermarket pizza. It requires no particular skill on the part of the cook to make good garlic bread; simple greed is all that is needed.

100g softened butter

3 plump garlic cloves, very finely chopped

2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leafed parsley

a generous sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves

1 stubby baguette

Mix the butter with the garlic and stir in the parsley and thyme. Using a sharp, serrated knife, make diagonal incisions about 3cm apart, as if you were slicing the loaf but without cutting right through. Take a sheet of silver foil large enough to parcel the loaf and place the loaf in the middle. Spread the garlic butter between the slices using a small knife, close up the parcel and bake for 10 minutes in a hot oven. To achieve a crusted top, open foil and bake for a further five minutes.

8) Crisp garlic and red chilli flakes

This is another crunchy little number that I developed while cooking at Bibendum. It was inspired by the brilliant crisp chicken dish at the Malaysian restaurant Melati, Great Windmill Street, on the shaggier edges of London's Soho.

Here, random chunks of chicken are flung into a wok, emerging all bristling and jumpy from hot oil (when it's really good, you can still hear it sizzle on the plate), clustered by an absurd number of garlic slivers and rings of red chilli, both equally crisp and golden. You can make these on their own using the following recipe.

Sprinkle over oriental salads, spiced noodle dishes or stir into a fragrant basmati pillau.

12 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

6 large, mild red chillies, sliced

400ml peanut oil


Take a heavy-bottomed pan and heat the oil until a slice of garlic turns pale golden after a few seconds. Carefully add all the garlic and chillies to the pan, watching out for the sizzling oil, Cook over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is golden and the chillies are a sort of rusty colour. Lift out with a slotted spoon and turn on to kitchen paper. Sprinkle with salt and leave to cool and crisp up.

9) Persillade

Persillade is a mixture of chopped garlic, breadcrumbs and parsley that can either be stirred into, or sprinkled over the surface of, meat, fish and vegetable dishes, thereby giving a crusted and fragrant finish to a dish. The breadcrumbs are there simply to soak up butter or olive oil, so if frying the persillade with, for instance, mushrooms, go carefully so as not to burn them. Turn gently in the pan until golden and dry. When strewing over the surface of a dish before grilling, moisten with a little olive oil.

10) Gremolada - or gremolata

Gremolada, which is a mix of chopped garlic, parsley and lemon peel, is used purely as an aromatic sprinkling that is then stirred into a hot, usually wet, dish such as a stew or braise. The most famous of these is osso buco, the Milanese stew of veal shins, traditionally served with a large mound of risotto alla Milanese (with saffron) alongside. The gremolada is flourished over the surface of the stew at the very last moment, its fragrance and perfume filling the air as the steaming dish is carried to table. Also useful stirred into a simple dish of hot pasta turned in plenty of butter and black pepper. Once again, add the gremolada at the last moment, perhaps with a sprinkle of Parmesan, too