Lessons from lasoon November 27, 2007Posted by C Y Gopinath in Food, Humor.
It might keep teenage vampires away but when you use it well in the kitchen, the unassuming garlic can unite the most diverse people
SMITH AND JONES GRIND GARLIC AT NASHIK. In case you think this is one of those phrases administered to suspected drunks to check their sobriety, it is not. Smith & Jones happened to be a brand of readymade garlic paste, one of latest products of ravenous, emerging giant India. I spied it on the mixes and spices shelf of one of the new breed of US-style self-service supermarkets in Mumbai.
Picked it up at once, of course, attracted by the Victorian-style graphics, the words ‘Traditional English Style’ written below in a pennant. Was this one of the newest Indian-made Foreign Imports coming out of a collaboration between a spirited desi entrepreneur and some expansive expatriate? Would Smith & Jones together wipe out Bedekar and Parampara? Was this the future of garlic, to be smashed and bottled and sold in disguise? Did Englishmen, by the way, eat garlic? Did Britannia rule with waves of garlicky breath? Hmmm.
I checked the fine print and discovered that Messrs. Smith and Jones operate out of a Nashik address, and instantly all was clear. Smith and Jones are probably the working names of some Sawant and Joglekar who have cannily realized that the future lies in garlic.
Made me start thinking about CYG and garlic. Allium sativa had not been a part of my strictly Dravidian childhood. Encountering it in Calcutta and Delhi, where I was shaped from boy to proud manhood, I felt formal towards garlic, like a Japanese towards a Gujarati. Gainda Singh, cook at my college , was a romancer of garlic, but since he shone in all other respects, I, as head of the Canteen Committee, tolerated this aberration.
When the corporate world tamed the garlic and bottled it as pearls, promising there would be no odour and yet the heart would glow with health, I checked that out. This is how garlic ought to be, I thought, unrecognizable, odourless, untastable, unseen. In brief, I was a garlic hater. I thought it behaved like the opposition in the lower House of Parliament, always disrupting proceedings.
I was wrong on all counts and today I stand ready to face the music.
The unforgettable Ishtiyaque Qureshi, ex-chef of the erstwhile Searock Hotel and later the Leela Kempinski, once fed me a kheer in which, I learnt later, the floating almond-like pods were really garlic. Garlic pudding! Aaaaargh. But it tasted somehow like a mild Lebanese paradise. “The trick is to subjugate the garlic by cooking it in milk long enough at the right temperature,” said Qureshi.
In Cairo, a taxi-driver’s wife ground raw garlic and green chillies together with salt and lemon juice, sandiwched it in the mouth of a small fried aubergine and fed it to me with whole fried Cornish chicken and a pasta salad. The one hero of this warrior-like meal was, believe it or not, the garlic.
Though my conviction that garlic was garlic was on the wane, for many years I maintained that it was best consumed in pearl form. Lest your social life take a plunge, you know.
But as of October 17, I have changed forever the way I perceive garlic. In large measure, this is because of a simple soup that was created by my wife Shilpa one sunset when no one felt like cooking and the evening stretched like eternity ahead of us. She threw a dart, it hit a Mexican cookbook, and another dart found page 72, Toasted Garlic Soup, serves 4 to 6.
“Don’t” I said, alarmed. “This marriage will be on the rocks!”
She ignored me. A woman who loves garlic knows what she wants.
I watched as she took a fistful of more garlic than I would have eaten in a month of Sundays, and toasted them. The aroma, forbidden and strong, filled the house. The child began to wheeze. The domestic help began muttering about paid leave. Then the vapours settled and more disciplined, suddenly more exciting, grew out of it. More things happened. I watched, face buried in my hands, nose twitching.
An hour later, I was tasting one of the most rogueish, ill-mannered and utterly charismatic soups I have eaten in a long time.
To get the entire recipe free of charge, all you have to do is click on the Bloggers Choice Award website link on top of this page and, only if you believe with all your heart that Gopium deserves one more vote, go and cast your vote.
On second thoughts, vote anyway. Who cares what you really believe in your heart?
On third thoughts, I’m not that kind of person. Here’s the full recipe:
¼ cup cooking oil
1 large or even huge head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled and coarsely chopped
½ a baguette bread, cut diagonally into ¼” thick slices
4 medium-sized red tomatoes, peeled and seeded and coarsely chopped into chunks
7 cups stock (chicken, preferably, but Maggi vegetable cubes if you insist)
Salt to taste
½ cup thick cream
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet until it is smoking. Add the garlic and stir over medium-high heat for a minute or so until the garlic cloves are lightly toasted. Transfer the garlic to a large soup pot.
2. Add as many slices of the bread to the skillet as will fit in one uncrowded layer. Fry over medium heat for a minute, turning once, until they are lightly golden on each side. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Continue until all the bread has been fried, and set aside.
3. Place the chilli peppers and tomatoes in the skillet and stir over medium high heat for a minute until they wilt. Transfer to the soup pot with the garlic. Add the stock and the salt, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the garlic has softened.
4. Ladle the soup into individual bowls. Garnish each bowl with fried bread and a dollop of cream. Serve right away, piping hot.