Garlic, shallot and potato recipesby Lauraine Jacobs
Locally grown garlic and shallots have unbeatable freshness and taste.
When chef Prue Barton put roasted heads of garlic on the menu at her Auckland restaurant, Vinnies, in the late 1980s, the kitchen could hardly keep up with demand. French and Italian cooking had brought some pungency to our traditional Brit-influenced diet and diners took to the “stinking rose”, as it is affectionately known by garlic lovers. Now, a kitchen without garlic is almost unimaginable.
Fields of garlic flourished in Marlborough then, but the industry suffered in the late 90s when cheaper Chinese garlic flooded our markets. These imports were nowhere near as flavoursome or fresh as New Zealand-grown garlic, but sold for less than a quarter of the price. But the freshness and flavour of locally grown produce is hard to beat, and because of the persistence of horticultural farming families such as the Murphys of Marlborough Garlic (garlic.co.nz), the supply of local garlic is burgeoning again.
It’s easy to identify local garlic. On the bottom of the bulb, roots hang in stringy threads, but they’re completely trimmed away on imported garlic. Murphys now grow different varieties, the most distinctive of which is elephant garlic, which has very large cloves and is a closer relative to a leek than conventional garlic. Through the Marlborough season from January to September, different varieties appear – some white, some more “rosy”, until the final months when Pukekohe crops are harvested. The Murphys’ farm also produces shallots, ranging from the long red banana shallots, which are very mild in taste, to the spicy picante variety, which adds quite a punch to any dish.
Black garlic is a relative newcomer. This is not a variety, but a process that involves fermentation that blackens the garlic cloves. Garlic contains sugars and amino acids, and when it undergoes fermentation, during three to four weeks of controlled humidity, these components produce melanoidin, which changes the colour to black. Black garlic has layers of flavour – hints of smoke and plenty of sweet notes – and it delivers a pungent force to any food it is cooked with or added to. It is available from specialty stores and supermarkets.
Chefs use it in sauces and in vegetable and meat dishes. In this recipe, inspired by Deborah Madison in her superb book Vegetable Literacy, black garlic and some lightly sautéed shallots enhance mashed potatoes to give an old favourite some zing.
MASHED POTATO WITH BLACK GARLIC, BUTTER AND SHALLOTS
500g agria potatoes (or other floury variety)
5 tbsp butter
4 tbsp shallots, finely diced
5 cloves black garlic, finely diced
freshly ground black pepper
Peel the potatoes and chop them into small chunks. Place in a saucepan with salt and enough cold water to cover. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, or until they are tender enough to mash easily.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the shallots and black garlic. Cook over gentle heat until tender and the butter turns a golden brown.
When the potatoes are done, drain well and mash them until they are smooth. Stir in the butter and garlic mixture and season to taste with extra salt, if necessary, and pepper.
Perfect with a thick juicy steak
Find a few varieties of small onions and shallots for this recipe. It keeps well for several days in the refrigerator, but do warm them before serving.
SWEET AND SOUR SHALLOTS, ONIONS AND SMALL RED ONIONS WITH RAISINS
600g mixed onions (shallots, small brown pickling onions, baby red onions)
1 tbsp olive oil
6 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
5 sage leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
100ml red wine
6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
6 tbsp raisins
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
Peel the onions by plunging them into boiling water for 20 seconds and then immediately into ice-cold water to loosen the skins and stop the cooking process. If the red onions are too large, cut them into quarters, but be sure to leave the root end attached so they retain their shape.
Choose a large wide saucepan and heat the olive oil with the thyme, bay leaves and the sage. Add the onions and toss well in the oil and herbs so they are coated.
Add salt and pepper with the wine, balsamic, honey and raisins and toss well as the honey melts. Add the stock and bring to a very gentle simmer. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for about 20-30 minutes, frequently shaking the pan. The liquid should become syrup-like and the onions tender and soft. The time will depend on the size of the onions and you may need to add a bit more stock or water and cook them a bit longer.
Serve warm or at room temperature in a small bowl with roast meats or cheese or as a delicious snack with fresh crusty bread.
Makes about 600g
HOW TO ROAST GARLIC
When whole bulbs of garlic are roasted or grilled over a barbecue or outdoor grill, they develop a nutty sweetness. Serve them as a side dish for steak or roast lamb.
Preheat the oven to 170°C. To prepare the garlic, ensure there is no dirt clinging to the roots. Slice through the top of each of six bulbs of garlic, taking care to stop before the top is completely cut through.
Drizzle over a little olive oil (I used Lot Eight’s aromatic olive oil) and place the bulbs in an ovenproof dish.
Bake for about 40 minutes or until the insides of the garlic cloves start to expand and look like they might ooze out. Serve at once, while still hot. The bulbs can be picked up and squeezed out for a delicious paste.
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