Food and Drink

   

In Season: Locally Grown Garlic

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There’s a scene in GoodFellas where Pauli (Paul Sorvino) cooks pasta for his inmates and insists on cutting it with a razor blade.

I love garlic.

Locally grown is now available, and can be easily spotted because it looks rustic and earthy, as opposed to the bleach-soaked white variety. Fresh local garlic is juicy and the skin slips easily away when peeling. Look for bulbs that that are firm with a dry, papery covering. Reject any with sprouts.

Rich landowners used to hand out garlic to their workers to keep them healthy. A raw clove a day is said to ward off high blood pressure, heart disease, cholesterol and fungal and bacterial infections. One of Pasteur’s great discoveries, before penicillin, was to prove its anti-bacterial qualities, but Pliny beat him to it, prescribing garlic as a cure for ear infections, asthma and coughs. He also said that if you drank enough garlic-infused wine to cause vomiting, it would cure haemorrhoids!

Pauli was right: the smaller you cut garlic, the greater the pungency and crushing garlic provides the strongest taste. An important tip Pauli missed is to be careful not to brown sautéed garlic or it will turn bitter. Baked whole, garlic mellows into a beautiful, sweet, nutty flavour which is ideal for great winter accompaniments like Paris mash, Skordalia or pureed with white beans.

To roast garlic: leave the bulbs whole, remove any loose skin and cut just enough off the top to expose the individual cloves. Then brush with olive oil, wrap in aluminium foil (2-3 layers) and bake at moderate heat until soft. You now should be able to squeeze the soft garlic out of the shells.

Here’s my take on Paris Mash (serves four).

Ingredients:
1 kg potatoes (nicola potatoes are perfect, dutch cream, coliban or desiree will also work nicely)
125ml milk
200ml cream
150g butter
1 bulb garlic (I like 2, but that’s me)

Method:
Prepare the garlic as above, baking the potatoes — whole and unpeeled — simultaneously.
Heat the milk, cream and butter to boiling point and add the soft garlic to infuse.
Remove the skins from the potatoes while they are still warm, and mash them.
Combine potato with the hot liquid and stir over a very low heat for 1 minute, beating well with a wooden spoon to get it light and fluffy.
Season with sea salt and freshly ground white pepper.


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