Garlic

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Garlic is a storecupboard ingredient. Garlic is related to onion and chives. Garlic can be used fresh or dried. Garlic is a key ingredient to most cuisines in the world from Italian and French to Indian and Chinese. Smoked garlic is also available in most grocers nowadays.

When heated garlic's pungency and strong odour get lost and its aroma and flavour becomes more subtle and less dominant, harmonising well with ginger, pepper, chillis and many other spices. Garlic is prepared by peeling and then crushing or chopping.

The spice part is the bulb, which grows under the ground. Garlic bulbs are white or pink skinned and consist of a collection of triangular segments - cloves - in a paper-like outer skin. To harvest, the plants are pulled up when the tops dry out, then hung out to dry in the shade. The bulb does not give out a smell when in the husk, but when crushed or peeled, the enzymes in the bulb rapidly produce allicin which breaks down into allyl disulphide, so producing the characteristic garlicky, sulphurous and lingering.

Garlic improves the taste of pretty much all meats from steak through to game, as well as to vegetables. It is worth rubbing some fresh garlic into the skin of game birds or poultry. Roasted garlic does sometimes become bitter, but not excessively so. In Asian cuisine, garlic is combined with chillis, coriander, fresh ginger, lemongrass and soy sauce.

Tip: to reduce garlicky tastes, add parsley or mint.

Further reading

  • Hemphill, I., Hemphill, K. (2014) The Spice and Herb Bible, Robert Rose. ISBN: 9780778804932.
  • Norman, J. (2015) Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference, DK Publishing. ISBN: 9781465435989.