GARLIC

I have been encouraged by my hungry friends to write this blog as apparently I spend a lot of time thinking about food, talking about it, cooking it and of course eating it. Mostly, I cook for my family and friends but I also cook for local people in Lincolnshire – food for their freezers, dinner and drinks parties. Food is one of the greatest pleasures in our lives and I would like to share my passion with anyone else who is interested.

As it now feels like winter I decided this week to focus on garlic. I have just spent a week on holiday eating and drinking too much and garlic cleanses your system and helps to fight off colds! Also, when it turns colder I cook casseroles such as boeuf bourguignon and lamb tagine. A good supply of garlic is absolutely essential in a winter kitchen.  In September I visited Sarlat in the Dordogne and bought one of those strings of garlic that you envisage hanging in every French kitchen. It’s also the right time of the year to grow it, more of that below ! Garlic and France brought me to one of my favourite cookery books of all time. A Table in the Tarn by Orlando Murrin. Living, Eating and Cooking in South-West France. This is a remarkable cookbook which I use all the time. It will be the subject of a future blog very soon.
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My recipe this week is the delicious Twice-Baked Garlic Souffles. My friend and professional cook Fi Bullen makes these delicious souffles as starters for many of her clients and they freeze very well. Don’t switch off because you have read the word Souffle! They are not scary and as Orlando says in his book – they will sink after the first baking but then puff up beautifully after the second.  Get your guests round the table in good time! Tip – Make sure they are at room temperature before the second baking.


Ingredients –
• 70g butter
• 1 head of fresh garlic, trimmed and chopped roughly, or 5 cloves dried garlic, papery skins removed, chopped
• 1/2 tsp vinegar
• 240 ml milk
• 3 tbsp plain flour
• leaves from a couple of sprigs of thyme
• 85g grated Cheddar cheese
• 50g grated Parmesan
• 4 large eggs, separated
For Serving
• 284ml double cream
• seasoning, nutmeg, extra Parmesan, a few bread crumbs
You will need six ramekins

Preparation –
Melt 10g of the butter and add the garlic, 1/4 tsp salt, pepper to taste, 180ml water and the vinegar. Simmer covered for 10 minutes, then uncover and boil till the water has evaporated. Add the milk, bring to the boil, then liquidize. Measure 240ml garlic-milk mixture.
Heat the remaining butter and stir in the flour and thyme. Cook for a minute, then make a white sauce by gradually stirring in the garlic milk till thick. Transfer to a big bowl, add the grated Cheddar, three-quarters of the Parmesan, then the egg yolks. Set aside.
Heat the oven to 180C (165C fan). Butter the individual soufflé dishes and dust the sides with the remaining Parmesan; if you have any left over, stir into the sauce. Set in a roasting pan and put a kettle on to boil.
Beat egg whites till firm but not dry. Fold half into the soufflé base, then add the rest. Spoon into the dishes (fill them almost to the top), pour boiling water into the pan to one-third of the depth of the dishes and bake for 20-25 minutes, till puffed and cooked through. Remove from oven and leave to cool—they will sink.
When cool, run a knife round the edge to loosen each soufflé, gently upend on to your hand, then put the right way up on one big dish or 6 gratin dishes. (You can make the soufflés a day ahead, or even freeze them.
To serve, set your oven to 210 C (200 c fan). Mix the cream with salt and pepper, grated nutmeg and Parmesan or other cheese. Pour over the soufflés to cover completely, then if you wish sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake for 10-15 minutes, till golden and the sauce bubbling. They will gently re-puff.
This recipe could become one of your most loved and asked for !

And now a few words on how to grow your own garlic:

Garlic is easy to grow and you don’t need a lot of space. A metre square would be fine and it’s fun to cook with your own bulbs. Plant garlic cloves in midwinter and you will be able to harvest the bulbs the following summer. You will need to buy bulbs from a local garden centre or nursery as shop-bought garlic will probably have been bred for a much warmer climate. In mild areas like Lincolnshire the cloves can be planted out now. First, dig your soil over then plant the cloves and cover the area with netting. This will stop the birds eating the cloves!

• Break garlic bulbs into individual cloves ready for planting. Take care not to damage the cloves as this can lead to rotting.
• In mild regions, plant the cloves in well-prepared soil spacing them 10cm apart. Just push the cloves into the soil so that the tip of each one is just below the surface. Cover them with fleece (from a garden centre) in frosty weather.
• In cold areas and to speed up the growth of the crop, plant the cloves in seed trays of multi-purpose compost. Water well and place trays in a cool greenhouse or cold frame to grow on.
• If you live in a very cold area plant out the cloves into trays in a greenhouse. The plants will be ready to plant outside in March or April. Use a trowel to make a hole and set the plants at the same level as they were growing in the trays.
• Harvest when the tops of your garlic plants start to die back and the leaves go brown.

A last tip –
Keep garlic well watered during dry weather. If it’s dry for long periods, the cloves will not swell and the resulting crop will not keep.

Useful Contacts –

In Norfolk, Fi Bullen at info@fibullen.co.uk or call 07796 854 103

To buy garlic bulbs in Lincolnshire – Scothern Nurseries – Dunholme Road Scothern, Lincoln LN2 2UD.  01673 862 297

To buy garlic bulbs and all sorts of other lovely garlic goodies – www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk

Picture of the garlic by Lionel Derimais (www.lionelderimais.com)

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.

Next time – Canapes for a Drinks Party

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