Thursday, January 28, 2010

No such thing as too much garlic

I’m going to smell for days.

I will have no fear of vampires, demons, werewolves, Satan, black magic, plague, small pox, the common cold or indeed, other people.

It’s good for you.

No, seriously. It’s really good for you.

Garlic is one of those miracle foods.

Everyone from the Bible to Louis Pasteur says so.

For thousands of years the medicinal effects of garlic have been observed and touted. In the 5th Century BC Hipprocates prescribed garlic for pretty much everything. In 1858 Louis Pasteur observed the anti-bacterial properties of garlic. Since then countless studies have been conducted on the efficaciousness of garlic for a variety of health concerns and enhancements. My personal favourite is one that essentially demonstrates that when combined with the Atkins diet, excessive garlic consumption increases testosterone levels (in, of course, rats).* See? Very useful stuff, garlic.

Garlic has two active compounds, which are, in a state of nature, contained in separate cells within each clove. The great and mighty alliim (a cysteine based and sulphur rich amino acid**) and the slight and dainty alliinase (a protein based enzyme***). Yeah, I don’t really get what that means either, except – crush or cut garlic and you start this chemical reaction between the two. The result? Allicin. Sharp, hot, spicy deliciousness. An aroma that it over-powering and rich and heady.

Also resulting: bad breath and garlic-infused sweat pores.

The supplement industry has rejoiced – pop a pill, avoid bad breath and garlic sweat. Take one, take two. Take more than you could ever chew. Which I think misses the point – if garlic is good for you, then we should be eating it. As part of a balanced diet. Things that garlic is delicious with: tomatoes, natural yogurt, ginger, seafood, chickpeas, leafy greens. Ie, other things that are also really good for you.

The whole ‘allicin reaction thing’ can be avoided if you cook the garlic. Heat treatment, particular the cooking of undamaged cloves, triggers a different chemical reaction – it effectively destroys the sharpness and smelliness associated with garlic. The result is surprisingly sweet and nutty. A bulb of garlic, wrapped in foil and cooked in a moderate over for about 40 minutes results in little squeezy tubes of garlic paste, delicious mixed with olive oil and salt as a spread for bread or a sauce for red meat. Or simmer unpeeled cloved in milk and salt for fifteen minutes – soft and lovely with sautéd spring vegetables.

It’s worth noting that amongst the many reputable studies on garlic out there, many suggest that the health-giving-benefits are greatest in raw garlic. Which, when you think about it, is the perfect excuse to eat bucket loads of spicy raw garlic with wild abandon.

I just eat it that way because it tastes fantastic.

* Oi Y, Imafuku M, Shishido C, Kominato Y, Nishimura S, Iwai K. (2001). "Garlic supplementation increases testicular testosterone and decreases plasma corticosterone in rats fed a high protein diet.". Journal of Nutrition 131 (8): 2150–6.
** Google it.
*** See above

Garlic and yoghurt chickpeas with garlic lamb kofta

Chickpeas in garlic yoghurt
1 tin chickpeas (or 1 cup dried, soaked and boiled chickpeas)
1 bulb garlic
1 cup natural yoghurt
2 pieces flat bread (pita bread or tortillas) – baked, grilled or fried until crispy
¼ cup chopped or slivered almonds
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp chopped parsley or mint
Spicy lamb kofta
½ kg minced lamb
1 onion, finely diced
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
1 heaped tsp turmeric
½ tsp chilli flakes

For the kofta – mix the lamb, onion, 5 minced cloves of garlic and spices together with tbsp yoghurt until well combined (you can put this in a food processor, but it will result in a stickier, smoother kofta). Refrigerate for about an hour (this helps firm it up).

To cook – roll kofta mixture with your hands into egg shapes. Heat oil in a non-stick pan and cook the kofta, turning gently when each side stops sticking to the pan. The kofta are ready when firm to press (about 10-15 minutes)

For the chickpeas – heat a little olive oil in a non stick pan, add the chickpeas. Cook on medium high until nutty and starting to brown. Whisk four minced cloves of garlic with the remaining yoghurt. Add a pinch of sea salt and the chopped parsley or mint. Heat the butter and almonds in a small pan until the nuts start to brown.

Toss the chickpeas with the yoghurt mixture. Break up the toasted flat bread and toss it through the yoghurt and chickpeas. Serve immediately with almonds and butter over the top.
Ward off vampires and the sniffles

1 comment:

  1. Miss Anne, I love your site. I made this recipe,it was fantastic and we have had no vampires at our house since. Thank you for the double treat.