The great garlic!

It’s raining hard and you are having a freshly made vada pao with its dry red lasun chutney. This dry lasun chutney is the clincher. Remove it and you can actually start feeling bereft of the authentic taste of Mumbai’s soul food.

Lasun, lehsun, lasan, garlic…give it your name and it remains the same, good old herb that has tonnes of health benefits. It is anti-social because it has an odour but it is possible to go out with teeth properly cleansed even if you have just snacked on fried garlic pods.

Homely recipes
Fried garlic pods? Don’t I just love them when done in ghee. In Punjab, when the days are too cold, people still fry whole garlic pods on a tawa with pure ghee…the pods should turn a nice brown and once off the heat, sprinkle with a little salt. Have one with every bit of roti. Okay, have half or a quarter but do have it! It’s a blood warmer, it’s a heart strengthener and it makes brushing necessary! The same way, green garlic stalks are something Gujaratis simply love to use in the undhiyo in the winter season. Can also chop the greens and sauté them lightly in ghee and have as an accompaniment with dal and bajra rotla.

The strength of the clove
I recommend that this cousin of the onion, shallot and leek be treated with a sharp knife and you would know that the finer you chop the clove stronger will be the flavour in the recipe. In fact I love to rub a bowl with garlic and then mix my salad in it. The taste is just perfect: something between there and not there! Believe it or not, one raw garlic clove, finely minced or pressed releases more flavour than a dozen cooked whole cloves.

Oh for the love of it!
Talk about garlic and the word breath follows! What can be done for garlic breath? Some say chew parsley, some say stick around with people who eat garlic! In fact, I read somewhere that even today no one in the British Royal Family eats garlic (so as not to have breath that might offend), and as a result no one who works for them is a garlic-eater either. And in the other extreme there is a Stinking Rose Restaurant in San Francisco that serves only garlic dishes. Garlic Ice cream included. The proportion is three cups milk to quarter teaspoon crushed garlic and a lot of cream and sugar and egg yolks. But garlic flavour gets to it for sure! There is a restaurant older than this in Helsinki. This restaurant serves garlic cheesecake and garlic everything, even garlic beer. The restaurant was founded in 1987 and has been open every single day since then – they do not close even for Christmas Eve, which is most unusual in Finland!

The right choice
Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian. Wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian and lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese and garlic makes all food good! It’s hard to cook with garlic without getting some on your hands. After exposure, scrub your hands with salt and lemon juice, using cold water. Then rinse off with soapy warm water. And while shopping, choose garlic heads that are firm to the touch, with no nicks or soft cloves. If you notice dark, powdery patches under the skin, pass it up because this is an indication of a common mould, which will eventually spoil the flesh.

As garlic ages, it will begin to produce green sprouts in the centre of each clove. These infant green sprouts can be bitter, so discard them before chopping the garlic for your recipe. However, if you plant the cloves and let them sprout to a height of about six inches, you can use the greens in other recipes.

I have seen some people take garlic oil rather casually. If you have to store garlic cloves in oil do so under refrigeration to avoid potentially-deadly botulism bacteria growth. This garlic flavoured oil can be used as and when you need it. Other ready forms available are garlic salt and garlic paste. This saves you from peeling and preparing the cloves but if you have a good garlic press, you don’t even need to peel garlic cloves before pressing. Just place the unpeeled clove in the tool cavity, press and discard the skins left in the cavity.

Cook for health
Indian medicine has been using garlic as a remedy for many ills for more than 2000 years. Modern science also recognizes these qualities and garlic is suggested as an antioxidant. For the cook, garlic has many journeys to embark upon. A burnt garlic and mint chutney can make a kabab more heavenly just the same way garlic bread with lasagna is a veritable feast. And what about the teekhi teekhi red lasun chutney that puts life into the vada pao? Khao to jaano! Meanwhile try out these gorgeous recipes with the robustness of garlic!

 Chilli Garlic Fish Rice
Chilli Garlic Fish Rice

Lehsuni Paneer Tikka

Red Chilli and Garlic Chutney

Till I write again.
Sanjeev Kapoor
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