Black gar­lic is the se­cret weapon your din­ner needs

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - The Cut Tasting Notes - Amy Bryant

LIQUORICE, TAMARIND, bal­samic, soy, cof­fee… These aren’t the tast­ing notes for a fine chi­anti or a bar of 90-per­cent-co­coa choco­late. They’re the flavours you might no­tice in black gar­lic, the tar-coloured cloves that have spent weeks in a low oven de­vel­op­ing deeply caramelised char­ac­ter­is­tics that are com­pletely dif­fer­ent to the fresh bulb.

Slightly sticky, soft and very snack­able (I can of­ten pick up on the liquorice notes, but some­times it’s choco­latey, too), black gar­lic is hav­ing a mo­ment, star­ring on restau­rant menus around the coun­try and in prod­ucts as widerang­ing as they are award-win­ning: may­on­naise, beer, ice cream, teriyaki sauce, ketchup. The last, by Hawk­shead Rel­ish, re­cently won its fifth gong since launch­ing in April 2017 and can be sloshed on to ba­con sand­wiches or into casseroles for a deep umami flavour.

As for the cloves them­selves, pro­duc­ers in this coun­try are few and far between. Black gar­lic is pop­u­lar in Korea, which is where Katy Heath of Bal­sajo first im­ported it from, be­fore start­ing to make it her­self. She now sup­plies restau­rants and pro­duc­ers around the coun­try, as does South West Gar­lic Farm in Dorch­ester.

Fresh gar­lic, un­peeled and still in its crown, is given at least three weeks (some­times six) at 60-80C, dur­ing which (thanks to the Mail­lard re­ac­tion, the holy-grail brown­ing process of seared steak) the amino acids and sugar re­act and re­lease dif­fer­ent flavour com­pounds – those dark, sweet, earthy tones, which leave no gar­lic breath (prom­ise). It’s good for you, too, with more an­tiox­i­dants than the non-aged stuff. Chop into sal­ads, slice over scram­bled egg, or nib­ble a cou­ple of cloves a day, neat.

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