As a French person, it is very remiss of me to have ignored garlic for so long as a Friday Focus topic.
I use garlic a lot in my recipes, and I use it generously in soups, stews and stir-fries, in sauces like pesto or dips like hummus. A big, finely chopped clove of garlic will turn a simple mayonnaise into a delicious aioli or it will give a Mediterranean flavour to a salad dressing.
(It will also keep vampires at bay. Actually, I use so much garlic that my neighbourhood has been vampire-free since I moved here 12 years ago! J)
But did you know that garlic has amazing therapeutic qualities and is often referred to as a “superfood?”
Garlic’s protective powers range from fighting cancer to promoting weight loss. Its potent properties come from compounds containing sulphur (which gives garlic its distinctive smell.) Sulphur helps with the formation of new cells and keeping the nails, skin and hair young-looking.
Garlic has been found to aid weight loss firstly by making food more flavoursome, with virtually no calories and secondly, by lowering insulin levels which helps reduce risks of diabetes. It also stops fatty deposits forming in arteries (where they would eventually harden and lead to cardio-vascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.)
Garlic is a powerful anti-microbial and boosts the production of white blood cells which will fight bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses. It is also a potent antioxidant, which helps enhance the whole immune system. Garlic is useful to fight a wide range of conditions: gastro-intestinal problems, respiratory infections, yeast infections, food poisoning, the common cold, bladder and kidney problems, ear infections…
The volatile oil, allicin, which is released when garlic is crushed, encourages the elimination of cholesterol, detoxifying the liver and acting as a potent anti-inflammatory. In addition, garlic contains a compound called s-allylcysteine which appears to have anti-carcinogenic properties.
One of my favourite ways to use garlic is by roasting it first. I would definitely advise you to try this method if the strong taste of garlic is too much for you. Once roasted, the taste of the garlic becomes mellow, almost sweet. As you would with raw garlic, it is then delicious used in any savoury dishes but I particularly love it spread on a toasted slice of bread and topped with chopped tomatoes and parsley and drizzled with olive oil.
How to roast garlic.
1- Remove the papery, outer layers of the garlic bulb,
2- Cut the top of the bulb to expose each clove,
3- Place the garlic bulb on a piece of foil and drizzle with olive oil,
4- Wrap the foil around the garlic and place it in a small roasting tin,
5- Cook in a pre-heated oven, 200C, for 30 minutes,
6- Once roasted, the garlic should be a golden, caramelised colour,
7- To use, simply “pinch” the individual cloves to squeeze the soft garlic out.