Garlic is one of the most characteristic ingredients of Mediterranean cooking. What would Italian, French, Greek or Spanish cooking be without it?
What’s so great about it?
- It’s a cheap yet indispensible store cupboard ingredient which can transform the blandest dish in minutes!
- It has infinite uses -either raw to flavour oils, mayonnaise and salad dressings or cooked in an endless variety of ways.
- It’s an essential part of a healthy diet and its many properties have helped promote the Mediterranean diet as a recommended way of eating throughout the world. (see Mediterranean Diet section)
- the fresher the garlic, the firmer the head,so don’t buy if the cloves cave in under pressure-it’s old!
- Before use, remove the papery skin and then mash, chop or slice. Garlic burns easily and adds a bitter taste, so keep an eye on it if frying in oil.
- There are many Mediterranean dishes where whole heads are used to flavour roast lamb (Greek kleftiko) or chicken and in the south of Spain they make a heavenly garlic and almond soup.
- To add flavour and goodness to blander ingredients such as haricot beans or chickpeas- take a leaf from Spanish rustic cooking and add a whole head to the pot for a healthy way to add flavour without reaching for the salt pot.
- Before serving mash a couple of the cloves of the cooked garlic with a spoonful of the pulses and stir into the pot. This will produce a richer tasting sauce.
- (See Fabada recipe for more info :))
Quick ways with garlic:
-as a marinade-
- chop finely and mix with the juice of a fresh lemon and several tablespoons of olive oil, touch of salt and pepper and pour over fresh chicken breasts, prawns or pork.
- Allow to rest for at least half hour before grilling or barbequeing. (You can also add your favourite herbs and chilli to the basic marinade.)
-as an easy way to give plain potatoes a uniquely Spanish flavour.
- Chop potatoes into medium sized cubes and boil until cooked but still firm. Drain and cool in a pan of cold salted water and set aside.
- Fry 1 or 2 cloves of garlic in some olive oil and remove with a slotted spoon once they caramelise. This will have flavoured the oil which you can now use to fry the potatoes in.
- For variety and a smoky taste and colour, sprinkle the potatoes with pimenton as they are frying-a wonderful combination of tastes to spice up the most boring spud in an instant-Ole!
or for a healthy brunch:
- why not try the classic Pan a la Catalana recipe (See recipe section)
Did you know?
- Garlic long enjoyed a reputation as a natural “cure all” in folk medecine and modern science has proved that this wonderbulb is not simply good in the kitchen but is also anti-septic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal as well as good at warding off colds.
- Regularly eating garlic has also been proven to protect against heart disease and many cancers.
- Scientists have discovered that mashing or slicing garlic and allowing it to sit for several minutes before using makes it more potent.
- It can be used on wasp stings to alleviate the pain
- Chewing fresh parsley is a good way to freshen your breath after eating garlic.
(For more info on garlic and health visit http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/garlic)