Garlic is a key ingredient in dishes from many Mediterranean countries. It is used extensively in Italian cuisine, possibly more liberally in the south of the country than in the north. This may be because if it’s not used carefully, it can overpower the flavour of more delicate ingredients.
With Italian cuisine becoming more popular in the UK and Ireland, you will easily find an Italian restaurant in Dublin serving traditional and more modern Italian food, and garlic features in many of the most popular dishes.
Garlic gives its distinctive flavour to many different dishes and can be combined with a wide range of meat, fish and vegetarian ingredients. According to BBC Good Food, garlic also has a reputation for providing a vast range of health benefits and has been called “Russian penicillin” because of its antibacterial properties. The culinary usage of garlic predates written history, and it is also relatively easy to grow.
Dublin Italian Restaurant Toscana, for example, grows much of its produce organically and locally, and there is a general move towards reducing food miles wherever possible.
How Much Garlic is right?
The amount of garlic used in Irish cuisine depends on how it will be cooked. For adding flavour to a roast, one or two whole bulbs can be roasted alongside the meat, and the contents can be squeezed out and added to the meat juices to flavour the gravy. If it is to be added to a dish that already includes onions – such as pasta sauce based on soffrito, a mixture of celery, carrot and onion – one clove will probably be enough.
Crushing the garlic with the flat edge of a knife is the simplest way to peel it. This splits the skin, which can then easily be removed. Sometimes a 10-second blast in the microwave will help. The clove can then be sliced or diced finely for use in the dish.
It is easy to overcook garlic, and this can result in a bitter aroma and taste. It is important that the oil or butter is hot enough for the garlic to start cooking the instant it hits the pan and that it is only cooked for half a minute before liquid is added so that it does not become brown and bitter.