Currabinny Cooks: The secret ingredient in the best garlic bread you'll ever taste

And a quick and easy rice and lentil dish that's perfect for lunch or dinner 
Currabinny Cooks: The secret ingredient in the best garlic bread you'll ever taste

The most delicious garlic bread, made in minutes. Picture: Bríd O'Donovan

Garlic Our kitchen would be an unfamiliar place without the many bulbs and cloves of garlic sitting on countertops or hanging on hooks. Many are broken open, spilling out cloves, others are still whole, violet flecked with papery skin like wrapping paper. We like to have a few varieties at hand; So-called wet garlic, young and mild, with edible green stalks still attached. Smoked garlic, violet garlic, scapes, mono-cloves, the sticky, aged black garlic and of course a jar of homemade confit garlic. We never really worry about the abundance of garlic in our kitchen, ageing out of use, we use it too often. If there is ever a recipe where a clove or two of garlic is asked for, we will invariably have the good sense to double the amount. We suspect that garlic is quantified cautiously in recipes on behalf of more delicate palates than ours.

We understand, of course, that garlic is a pungent herb, which can sting the eyes, burn the throat, cause our breath and sweat to smell and may well overcome other less powerful flavours in a dish. Garlic is like many herbs or seasonings, in that its effect changes dramatically depending on at what stage you add it to a dish, how you chop, slice or crush it and how long you cook it. If used correctly, garlic can be used liberally in a dish without making that dish over-powering. Conversely, you can make one clove of garlic go a long way in a dish without dulling its impact. Garlic is not to everyone’s taste, but we would urge you to explore different ways garlic can enhance a dish. Garlic can be subtle, sweet, nutty and deeply comforting, all depending on how you treat it.

Garlic originated somewhere in Asia or the Middle East and quickly spread around the world through trade routes and conquest. This pungent herb is one of the oldest cultivated plants. It was worshipped by the Egyptians as a god and used as local currency. Clay garlic bulbs were placed in Egyptian tombs with the dearly departed. Archaeologists are unsure whether the clay bulbs were intended as funds for the afterlife or as idols to appease the gods. Garlic was both celebrated and condemned by the belief that it could inflame the passions. 

At times it was forbidden for Tibetan monks, widows, and adolescents to consume the stimulating herb. Garlic inspired literary passion as well. The aromatic bulb is mentioned in ancient Egyptian, Greek, Indian and Chinese writings as well as the Bible, Talmud and Quran. Greek, Egyptian, Chinese, and European medicinal texts cite garlic as the cure for many ailments, including impotence, scorpion bites, heart disease, lack of energy, and the black plague.

Garlic is now ubiquitous in many world cuisines and has become a staple way to enhance the flavours of all kinds of dishes. The following recipes are some simple ways you can use garlic in the kitchen.

Brown rice and lentil pilaf with crispy garlic

recipe by:Currabinny Cooks

We’ve been making this a lot lately as it is perfect for a quick lunch or easy dinner. Nutty brown rice, savoury lentils, melt in your mouth caramelised shallots and intense, crispy fried slices of garlic.

Brown rice and lentil pilaf with crispy garlic

Servings

4

Preparation Time

5 mins

Cooking Time

40 mins

Total Time

45 mins

Course

Main

Ingredients

  • 2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed

  • Sea salt

  • Black pepper

  • 2 bay leaves

  • Olive oil

  • 250g brown rice

  • 200g cooked green lentils from a tin, rinsed

  • 3 banana shallots, peeled and quartered

  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly

  • 4 scallions, sliced thinly

Method

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium high heat. Add the minced garlic and bay leaf and stir around the pot for a minute or two until fragrant. Add the uncooked rice to the pan and stir around until is it all coated in hot garlicky oil. Pour in enough boiling water to cover the by around an inch. Season with a good pinch of salt and cook uncovered for around 30 minutes until the rice has soaked up all of the water and becomes tender with just a hint of a bite. Discard the bay leaves. Add the cooked lentils to the pan of hot cooked rice and stir well to incorporate.

  2. In another smaller saucepan heat another 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat and add the shallot quarters along with a pinch of sea salt and cracked black pepper. Stir until the shallots become translucent and browning on the edges.

  3. Heat 60ml of olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium high heat. Add garlic slices to the hot oil, reducing heat to medium low and fry the garlic slices until well browned. Remove from the hot oil with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with kitchen paper.

  4. Place the warm rice and lentils in a bowl and top with the caramelised shallots, crispy garlic and lastly the thinly sliced scallions.

Confit garlic

recipe by:Currabinny Cooks

This is probably one of our favourite things to do with garlic. It is the best way of preserving your garlic cloves, transforming them into easy to use little pouches, which you can squeeze out when needed

Confit garlic

Servings

10

Preparation Time

5 mins

Cooking Time

60 mins

Total Time

1 hours 5 mins

Course

Side

Ingredients

  • 2-3 large heads of purple garlic

  • Mixed herbs (rosemary, thyme, bay, tarragon, fennel, marjoram etc)

  • 350 ml of extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C.

  2. Separate the cloves out but keep them in their skins. Place them in a compact ovenproof dish. Scatter over a good amount of whatever mixed herbs you are using. Pour over the olive oil and press everything down so it is all as submerged as possible.

  3. Place in the oven for a little over an hour. Test a clove after an hour, it should be golden in colour and jammy when you squeeze the flesh out.

  4. Place the garlic, herbs and oil in a sterilised jar and seal. Leave to cool and place in the fridge.

Smoked garlic bread

recipe by:Currabinny Cooks

Our favourite way of using smoked garlic is mixed into butter and spread generously on some baguette to create the most luxurious garlic bread.

Smoked garlic bread

Servings

4

Preparation Time

5 mins

Cooking Time

15 mins

Total Time

20 mins

Course

Side

Cuisine

Italian

Ingredients

  • 200g butter, softened

  • Big handful of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

  • 1 good sourdough baguette, cut in half horizontally

  • 4 cloves of smoked garlic, crushed

  • Pinch of sea salt

  • 100g Parmesan, finely grated

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  2. Mash the butter, garlic and chopped parsley in a medium-sized bowl along with a pinch of sea salt. Spread generously all over the two cut halves of the baguette.

  3. Place the buttered baguette on a lined baking tray and grate the Parmesan all over.

  4. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown all over.

  5. Serve alongside some spaghetti bolognese or lasagne.

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