Garlic More Than A Spice
Garlic not only adds flavour to dishes, it has also many medicinal properties. And for those who don’t like its aroma, there are ways to make it smell less strong.
Used more as a charm and a medicine during the medieval period, garlic today is part and parcel of the culinary culture of many countries world over.
Though less popular than it’s more famous cousin the onion, garlic is in no way less tasty or nutritious.
Turn to any cookery book or to the cookery section of any women’s magazine, and more than 50% of the recipes given are likely to include garlic as one of the ingredients. It could be ‘a teaspoon of ginger-garlic’ in one, “a few crushed garlic pods in a second and “seasoning with garlic” in a third — but the spicy pods are there all the same.
Garlic is considered the “classic ingredient” in the national cuisine of many countries. It became a popular ingredient in American dishes mainly after World War II. In our country too, in spite of religious restrictions in some communities to abstain from garlic, every community and region has at least a couple of dishes using garlic. These spread their aroma far and wide into other regions.
In a way, it is the garlic flavour in many, dishes that makes them unique and special. Besides imparting that delicious aroma to dishes, garlic conceals many an unpleasant flavour in dishes, with its pungency and strong smell. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons for its worldwide use.
Garlic found its place in the baking industry long ago with garlic breads and garlic flavoured salt biscuits flooding the market.
The use of garlic in sauces and pickles could be attributed to the presence of a component called allium in it, which inhibits the growth of many microbes.
Today, with emphasis on maintaining good health and managing disease the natural way, garlic has attracted the attention of dieticians and physicians more than ever before.
While the health-giving’ properties of garlic are enhanced by the presence of a number of minerals and vitamin B, it owes its disease- preventive properties to the allicin (which has anti-inflammatory powers), allium (an antibiotic) and anticoagulants and anti-oxidants present in it.
Garlic prevents blood from clotting and this makes it a cheap and valuable aid in heart ailments. Experts claim that it has cholesterol-reducing properties and that it can prevent arteries from becoming hard and thick. If included as a part of the regular diet, it regulates the heart rhythm, lowers the pulse rate and has a beneficial effect on blood pressure, claims modern research.
Its efficacy in curing colds, blood sugar, stomach disorders and counteracting various kinds of detoxifications of the body has also been proved.
Botanically named Allium sativum, garlic is a bulbous plant of the Liliacease or Lily family and is a native ofAsia. It is a perennial plant which could be propagated by planting cloves, tops and bulblets. The plant grows abundantly in Southern France andItaly.
To some extent the “relationship” people have with garlic could be said to be a love or hate one. To put it more clearly, those who love it, relish it in every dish and those who hate its smell, do so with all their heart. Those who hate it do so largely because of its odour which they claim is antisocial (not conducive to company). Yet, the new dimension that the spice has acquired as a health-giver, makes it an invaluable ingredient in the daily diet. Of course, garlic pills without the offensive smell are available in the market, but garlic in its natural form is better and works out cheaper too for daily consumption.
Here is a small trick which a cook can use to alter the amount of odour that garlic produces in a dish. A little knowledge of chemistry comes into play here.
It is the enzyme allinase in garlic that gives rise to the strong odour, when it comes into contact with another chemical, allinin, also in garlic. But luckily, the cell membranes act as a barrier between these 2 components, keeping them away from each other. The flavour that garlic emits depends upon the extent to which these 2 components come into contact — in other words, on the extent the cloves are crushed or broken.
Hence, if the seeds are well crushed or are cut fine, they give off a stronger smell, while big pieces or lightly crushed seeds produce less of it. Similarly whole seeds cooked in a dish emit a milder flavour.
The use of different cooking methods also means that different smells are emitted by the garlic. Crushed garlic roasted in oil, gives off a delicious aroma which is less offensive and does not linger long in the mouth. It is raw and ground garlic that is most offensive.
A few garlic pods crushed and taken with first mouthful of food as a medicine need not produce an offensive smell as the subsequent mouthfuls of food taken drown it to a large extent. Taking it with dinner too solves the problems as one is less likely to mix with people then.
A tasty combination which garlic haters can try in an attempt to overcome their aversion to it, is salted buttermilk in which crushed garlic pods or garlic paste in added. Garlic usually goes well when cooked with sour dishes. Keeping the cloves on a hot vessel or near the gas stove makes peeling them easier.
Garlic-raw mango chutney
- 1 raw mango (medium sized)
- ½ coconut
- 3 or 4 green chillies
- 5 to 7 garlic cloves
- Salt to taste
- Peel the mango, remove the seed, pith etc and chop into pieces. Grate the coconut. Peel the garlic cloves.
- Grind the coconut along with chillies, salt and mango to a fine paste with a little water. Add the garlic and grind for a while longer.
- This delicious chutney goes well with puns, chapattis and packed lunches, if very little water is used for grinding.