Garlic frying in butter. It announces that something special is taking place in the kitchen. It draws you in, makes your imagination create wonderful possibilities, secret hopes of what the dish might be. It’s the very beginning of something savoury and full of depth and irresistable flavour. Garlic does all of this, and that’s before you even taste it.
When my French father-in-law visits, his suitcase is filled with all manner of food delights and this includes the ubiquitous garlic bulbs. They’re three times the size of the puny bulbs available in English supermarkets and their flavour is wonderfully rounded and smooth. If you want quality British garlic, you’ll have to look for it somewhere other than your local, friendly, giant, faceless, monopolizing supermarket.
With several bulbs of garlic from southern France, I felt charged with the responsibility of making something worthy of their quality. My first thought was of garlic bread. However, first ideas are not always the best and garlic bread is hardly an earth-shattering revelation. Consulting colleagues didn’t yield any new ideas and I was beginning to scratch my head when suddenly, I had an earth-shattering revelation: garlic bread!
You may laugh (and possibly cease reading this altogether), but my first thought was not as silly as I’d judged it to be. What better way to showcase the wonderful flavour of this garlic than to combine it with fairly bland, but satisfying ingredients? I’ve enjoyed garlic soup in the Czech Republic and some wonderful chicken dishes with heaps of garlic in Thailand, but honestly, I wanted something with origins closer to home.
What follows is a recipe so full of garlic, that casual admirers of garlic may wish to turn the volume down on this one. My recipe is for those who love garlic, I mean really love it. Can you have too much of a good thing? Probably.
Killer garlic bread
half French tiger stick (or plain baguette)
1 bunch fresh parsely (chopped)
10 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
150g salted butter
1 tblspoon olive oil
It’s a killer garlic bread for a number of reasons. Reading the ingredient list gives you a clue to at least one of them. You can use more or less butter according to your taste (and lifestyle choices). Copious amounts of butter, however, will guarantee a rich flavour and a moist end product.
After chopping all of the garlic finely, I heat the butter in a milk pan and fry the pungent cloves very gently. If you burn any of the garlic, it is ruined. The bitter taste of burned garlic is a real spoiler for any dish, so do take care to add enough butter to let the garlic float a little and give the pan a shake to make sure nothing sticks. I often tilt the pan so that the butter gathers and cooks the garlic evenly. I usually add a drop of olive oil to prevent the butter burning too. Don’t add too much oil or you’ll end up with greasy garlic bread which is not pleasant.
The reason that I use a lot of butter is not just so that the garlic can be cooked evenly. I need to mix the garlic butter with lots of parsley and spread it onto the bread. Predictably, the bread soaks up the liquid, so there needs to be plenty of topping to cover the surface of the bread and also to soak into it. We really want the flavour to seep through instead of sitting on the top. I use a wooden spatula to mix in the parsley and then I season the buttery paste with some sea salt before spooning it onto the bread.
Tiger bread is very tasty, so when I spotted a French tiger stick, I was excited about using it to make the garlic bread. You can use a regular baguette for the same result. I only needed half and I cut through the length of the bread and opened it out to spread the verdant garlic butter onto the soft surface. The parsley is essential for countering the strength of the garlic. It also brings a fantastic colour to everything. I left the bread for a few minutes to let the butter soak in.
I then lined a baking tin with foil and put the bread into a hot oven at 180C for about ten minutes or until the bread was crisp and golden. Spreading the butter and parsley to the very edges of the bread ensured that nothing burned. I ate mine with some cream cheese on the side which was a cool companion to every bold bite of this bread. It’s delicious on its own and would go down a treat at a barbecue! Just make sure you warn your friends that this garlic bread is the real deal.