I often wonder if I was only allowed two or three flavourings (salt and pepper aside) what might they be? I guess it comes down to cultural bias and personal preference as to what the must-have flavours for each cook might be – chillies or ginger, rosemary, smoked paprika, lemongrass, coriander or mint, and so on. There is so much choice, but for most people it comes down to the way you learnt (or like) to cook and the flavours that surround you in your culinary world. Or it could be something that you are currently obsessed with and find yourself trying with everything until you work out just WHAT it really goes best with.
Some ingredients you just take for granted, because they become part and parcel of the way you cook. For me garlic and lemons are the cornerstone of my flavours. And I often use them together. If I don’t have either lemons or garlic at hand, I feel stranded in the kitchen. It’s not about a desire to have everything taste garlicky or lemony, but about the nuance these two ingredients provide - a subtle resonance that layers on the palate. I love the fact that with lemons you get this bright, clean, light acidity from the juice and then a deeper oily citric flavour from the skins. Asparagus & Fresh Rocket Risotto is a perfect example of this. With garlic you can get a fleeting waft just by rubbing a cut clove over a piece of bread or around a salad bowl, or a really pungent flavour by crushing it, and a milder taste by cutting it thinly lengthwise so you don’t break the cells that release that sulphurous aroma and flavour.
When you roast garlic it becomes meltingly sweet. I just love to keep roasted garlic in the fridge. It’s one of those fridge fixings you can add to things to turn them into something special. Try it in mayonnaise to create a creamy, silken aioli, or in risotto with pumpkin and rocket and parmesan, or added to polenta with parsley and pecorino. Enjoy this recipe for Roasted Garlic.
Always store garlic in a cool, dry place. As we come into spring it will start to sprout, at which point you can plant it. It’s supposed to be planted on the shortest day, but it’s fine to go into the ground in early spring - just be sure to plant the cloves a good finger depth into the soil. If you aren’t planning to plant garlic, use it up fast before it shoots. Some people believe the green shoot part is what causes bad breath. I don’t think this is proven, but if it worries you, just slip out the green shoot from the halved cloves.