Garlic is the ultimate local yet global food: the perfect start for Get Cooking’s weekly ingredient blog. What other ingredient could possibly be used so widely, in so many cultures, and as a focal flavour for so many different cuisines? And yet be so easy to grow, no matter where you live?
In colder climes like ours in Edmonton, garlic sells all winter in our farmers’ market stalls because it stores easily at low temperatures, and at room temperature in our kitchens too.
Garlic, or allium sativum, is a member of the onion family, and closely related to the shallot, the leek and the chive, and has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes since ancient times.
There are two garlic sub-species: softneck, the Silverskin variety of which is the dominant supermarket variety; and hardneck, whose varieties include Porcelain, Rocambole and Purple Stipe. The hardneck varieties fare well in our climate, and produce scapes, or flower stalks, which are harvested in early summer and are delicious steamed or sautéed. Serve your scapes as a side dish, or add them to pastas and stir-fries for a deliciously subtle burst of garlic taste.
Use your culinary know-how to adapt the intensity of garlic flavour in your cooking:
crush it to release the most pungent flavours; for a little less strength chop your cloves; more subtle still, slice them or use them whole. Or bring out garlic’s sweet and mellow side by roasting it in the skin, single cloves or the whole head: simply squeeze the roasted cloves out of the skins for an unctuous paste that is as delicious spread on a slice of bread as it is if you use it to cook with.
Look for different garlic varieties in your farmers’ markets this year: try them out and decide which you like best. And don’t miss out on fresh garlic, just after harvest: it’s a juicy, pungent, gourmet delight. Watch this space, and I’ll tell you when it starts to appear!
The following recipe for Spaghetti all’ Aglio e Olio is an Italian store-cupboard classic. Use the best quality olive oil you can to make this simple but delicious dish. The sauce takes just minutes, and can be made while the pasta cooks! Served with a simple green salad and crusty French or Italian bread to soak up any leftover pools of sumptuous garlic oil, this is gourmet fare, ready in minutes.
Spaghetti all’ Aglio e Olio (Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil)
450g spaghetti or spaghettini
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼-1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
150ml extra-virgin olive oil
handful flat-leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cook the spaghetti in plenty of well-salted boiling water until al dante, then drain.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over a gentle heat and sauté the garlic and chillies, stirring, until fragrant and lightly golden.
- Transfer the cooked spaghetti to a warm serving dish, toss with the garlic oil and parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste then serve.
Let me know if you made the recipe. Submit your pictures on my facebook page or leave a comment below.