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018 Garlic: A Veiled Bride (Herbs & Spices #3)

Updated: Nov 19, 2021

Garlic/Lahsun/Belluli/ Telegadda/Allium sativum

Aromatics, Herbs, Spices Series #3

A fair, shriveled, veiled bride, bundled up into a potli. Her golden strands enclosed in white tissue paper with hints of purple bruises. The yellowing veins pulled up tight to make a ballerina’s rigid bun. A proud thin head atop. Fleshy plump cloves find shelter inside, doubly protected in their own individual pinkish-white paper cocoons. Each clove is a chubby comma, with a hard head and a long tail. Hibernating comets stuck within the galaxy of the bulb. Garlic!

These pesky cloves are the bane of most home cooks. They make the act of peeling garlic one of the most tedious procedures in the kitchen. Over the years, I have come across many techniques - ranging from tapping the cloves on the floor, zapping them in the microwave, cutting them with a knife, smashing them with a granite pestle, and rattling them between two metal bowls. Whichever method you employ, the impish cloves definitely test your patience. Once peeled, their papery skin flies everywhere, leaving you to chase the discarded wings with a jhadu!

You either hate these bulbs or you love them. I am whole-heartedly in the latter category. I sometimes have nightmares that I have been asked by my doctor to give up garlic. Not sugar, not fried goodies, not milk based products - but garlic! I know I know - they have a pungent aroma, make your breath stink, and even vampires are afraid of them, but I cannot imagine my life without these beautiful white pearls. My favourite food memories are inextricably tied in with garlic. My mother’s home-made garlic bread sprinkled with Italian herbs and folded with love in aluminum foil, visiting the ‘Stinking Rose’ restaurant with Brajesh bhaiya, Madhu’s dry peanut-garlic chutney atop her famous lemon rice in Manipal, making aglio-olio for my husband and kids, and my mother-in-law’s unparalleled dehydrated garlic chutney.

I fell head over heels with garlic in Greece. Tzatziki was my gateway to the subtle flavours of garlic. Thick creamy curd, swirled in with grated cucumber, salt, and smashed garlic that lovingly swam in extra virgin olive oil above. Each restaurant has their own adaptation of tzatziki, like every darshini has of it's chutney across Bangalore. In Greece some chefs added black pepper. Some folded in roasted walnuts. Some added a hint of lemon juice. Some mixed in fresh herbs like dill or mint. But each and every rendition of this cooling delight had the undertone of pungently-sweet garlic. Olive oil and garlic destined for each other, are two of the ingredients I use most often in our family dinners.

Share your secret technique of peeling garlic.

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