Light bulb moments
Garlic is a rock-star ingredient in most cuisines; its effect ranging from punchy and keen to buttery sweet depending on how you cook it. Try it crisp and caramelised with broccoli pasta, or as a mellow confit in a potato frittata
Garlic is a good friend in the kitchen. It crosses continents like few other ingredients. When I was growing up, a guy we imaginatively named the Onion Man used to come to our door selling alliums from Brittany (I’ve since learned these onion sellers are known as Onion Johnnies). He rode a bike, and the handlebars were heavy with plaits of purple garlic, rose-pink onions and shallots. The freshness of his wares was unmatched. Some years ago, his bike stopped wheeling the streets where I grew up. But to our delight a few months ago he made a reappearance: his name is Pascal and six strings of garlic bulbs now hang in my kitchen.
I handle garlic with a bit of care. It is very rare that I use it raw and if I do it will be just a sniff of it, as I find the flavour shouts down everything else. But I love the buttery sweetness you get when you cook with garlic: roasting the cloves whole, making a gentle confit, or quick-frying slices in a little oil. Each method brings out notes that are suited to different dishes. The trick is to find the sweet spot, when the edges catch and it begins to brown and caramelise, becoming pleasingly chewy. Leave it any longer, and it begins to char and it will take on a burnt flavour that overwhelms everything.
Garlic isn’t just the straight-up, white-papery-wrapped bulbs. There is black garlic, rich and sweet with molasses; the enormous cloves of elephant garlic; subtle smoked garlic; fresh and pungent wet garlic; pretty
pink garlic; and, right now, wild garlic. The long, pointed leaves of the latter are filling lanes, parks and hedgerows, as well as greengrocers. If you have some on hand you could successfully use them in the recipes below.
Crispy garlic, broccoli and blood orange pappardelle
This is a pretty simple but impressive pasta with a pretty, pink-tinged sauce, making the most of the last of the blood oranges. If you can’t get any, a standard orange would work too, as would a lemon – although perhaps you would only need half the juice. I use wholewheat pappardelle here as I like it next to the broccoli and orange, but any wide noodle pasta will do.
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced 2 tbsp olive oil 400g purple sprouting broccoli 150g creme fraiche Zest and juice of 1 blood orange Salt and pepper 500g pappardelle A little parmesan for grating (I use a vegetarian one)
1 First fry your garlic. Line a plate with some kitchen paper. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, then add the garlic and cook until the edges begin to brown and crisp. When done, scoop out the crisp garlic with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper, keeping the leftover oil for later.
2 Next trim your broccoli, nicking off any dry ends and chopping any larger pieces in half down the
The trick is to find the sweet spot, when the edges catch and it begins to caramelise, becoming pleasingly chewy
middle so they are all the same size.
3 Put two pans of salted water on to boil – one large one for your pasta and a smaller one for the broccoli.
4 Once the garlic oil has cooled, pour it into a jug and add the creme fraiche, and the orange juice and zest. Season well with salt and pepper.
5 Next add your pasta to the larger of the pans and cook according to the packet instructions. About 4 minutes before the pasta is ready, add the broccoli to the other pan. Cook the broccoli until it has lost its rawness but is still perky and deep green.
6 Drain the broccoli and leave in a colander to steam while you drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of the starchy pasta water for the sauce.
7 Put the pasta back into the pan, add the broccoli and the orange cremefraiche oil and mix well, adding a little pasta water at a time and mixing until you have a subtle pink, creamy sauce that clings to your pasta.
8 Serve in the middle of the table in a big bowl with parmesan for grating over.
Mellow confit garlic frittata with gremolata
Don’t be shocked by the amount of garlic used here: it makes more than you will need but keeps really well in the fridge for months, and the mellow oil is a quick addition to pastas, pizzas and dressings. I use a castiron pan – I find it provides a nice even heat – but any heavy-based frying pan works. If you have wild garlic to hand, replace the spinach with a couple of handfuls of the leaves for a punchier but still mellow garlic flavour, wilting them as you would the spinach.
3 garlic bulbs 750ml olive oil 500g new potatoes 200g baby spinach 6 eggs, lightly beaten A large bunch of parsley Red chilli Zest of 1 lemon A pinch of salt
1 To make the confit garlic, separate 3 bulbs of garlic into individual cloves, leaving the papery skin on. Put them in a small pan with the oil over the lowest heat possible. Allow them to cook very gently for an hour, making sure the oil doesn’t get too hot. If you need to, you can turn the heat off every now and again.
2 After an hour take the pan off the heat, allow to cool completely and pour the contents into a clean jar.
3 To make the frittata, preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Add the potatoes to an ovenproof pan with 2 tbsp of the garlic oil, turning the potatoes over so they are all glistening. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
4 Meanwhile, peel 10 cloves of confit garlic from their papery skins.
5 Once the potatoes are golden, remove them from the oven (without switching it off ) and give them a good shake, loosening any that are stuck to the bottom of the pan.
6 Put the pan on a medium heat (use an oven glove or folded tea towel to hold the handle – it will be very hot), and add the spinach, tossing it until it has begun to soften. Scatter over the garlic cloves.
7 Add the beaten egg, pouring it evenly around the pan and stirring gently to coat the spinach and potatoes.
8 Cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes then transfer to the oven to cook until the frittata has just set, but still has a little wobble.
9 In the meantime, quickly make the gremolata. Finely chop the parsley and red chilli together, add the lemon zest and a good pinch of salt.
10 Serve the frittata in generous slices with the gremolata for spooning over.