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Roasting garlic and shallots

"People always seem to eat incredible amounts of this" Nigella Lawson

"It's hard to imagine now, but it wasn't until the middle of the last century that we really embraced garlic" Mark Diacono

He is so right, and it took another half century to embrace roast garlic - well for us. Of course the rest of Europe and the Middle East have been doing it forever. I do remember roasting onions sometimes to go with the roast beef, but then we didn't know about garlic back then.

Back in 1998 Nigella Lawson in her first book - and the most classic even though it has no pictures - How to Eat - wrote those words at the top of the page with respect to the roast garlic and shallots that she serves as a side dish to cold leftover meat after Christmas although:

"You can also eat them cold, with a little more olive oil and a drop or two of balsamic vinegar poured over them, along with a load of fresh parsley and maybe some toasted pine nuts." Nigella Lawson

As I said, there are no pictures - not even today. Nobody seems to have tried her recipe, so I shall give it here and illustrate with a picture from the website Beth Dooley's Kitchen of her Herb roasted garlic and shallots, although it's not quite the same thing, and she seems to have concentrated on the garlic. So here are Nigella's words - worth reproducing - it's like an Elizabeth David recipe, just part of a conversation rather than an instructional thing:

"My other regular standby is a plate, a huge plate, of roasted whole garlic cloves and shallots. ... Preheat the oven to 160°C. And reckoning on half a head of garlic and 125g of shallots per person, peel the shallots and put them in a tray in the oven with some olive oil. They need about 45 minutes, and the garlic will need about 25, so give the shallots a 20 minute head start. Meanwhile, separate the cloves of garlic, put them in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and let boil for 2 minutes. Drain and peel the garlic: the blanching will have made it very easy; just exert pressure on one end of the clove and it will pop out of its skin at the other. Put the garlic in its tray with some olive oil, too and roast.

When both the garlic and shallots are cooked, mix on a large plate and sprinkle salt and parsley over them. I know half a head of garlic each and all of those shallots sounds a lot, but people always seem to eat incredible amounts of this."

Times have changed since then as these days we tend to roast whole heads of garlic - as in the picture at the top of the page, although shallots still tend to be peeled I think.

Skye Gyngell was the only other chef/cook to combine the two together but her recipe was slightly more complicated with the addition of sherry for one thing - Baked garlic and shallots with fino. But I have to say they do look pretty good.

Beverley Sutherland Smith, from whose book The Seasonal Kitchen, the picture comes, somewhat weirdly boils her whole heads of garlic in milk first - well slowly brings them to the boil, before draining, and wrapping in foil with a little water, before roasting in a slightly hotter oven - 180°C for 45-60 minutes. And I have to say that most people do indeed wrap them in foil with various additions - somebody fried them with a touch of sugar first - butter or oil added - a herb? Thyme seems to be the favourite here.

Roasted garlic is a wonderful thing quite different from the raw version - sweeter and more mellow, Which means that you can be lavish as in the classic Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, or Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's similar concept - Six-hour spiced lamb with 40 cloves of garlic.

Nigel Slater gets quite carried away with the idea of roasting garlic:

"This is garlic so mellow I half expect to open the oven door and find it listening to Peggy Lee. This is garlic that kisses you gently rather than smacks you in the face. Albeit very definitely a French kiss." Nigel Slater

He also rhapsodies about how you can use it:

"others are earmarked for today's lunch, to be eaten whole, tossed in a salad with roasted red peppers, basil and salty little anchovies. ... If I wasn't doing the red pepper thing for lunch, I could use the garlic for toast. You squeeze the warm roast cloves from their papery skin and mash them on thick toast, then upend the (absurdly expensive) olive-oil bottle over it. You scatter it with enough salt to bring on an early thrombosis and eat the lot while it is just that bit too hot."


"Their happiest ending is when I mash the sticky, golden cloves into the gravy from the roast. I lift the joint from its tin, put it on the heat and pour in a glass of white wine or Marsala. I then drop in the garlic, mash it into the juices with a fork or the potato masher and grind in some salt and black pepper." Nigel Slater

All of which are almost not recipes, but he does have one 'proper' recipe for Roasted garlic mushroom tart which is pretty simple and worth trying when mushrooms come back into season. TikTok easy.

Others seem to think that the roasted garlic goes wonderfully well with cheese - either on a cheese and charcuterie platter or in a Roasted garlic and shallot cheese dip/Izzy's Vegetarian Recipes.

Before I leave the garlic and go to shallots, there is the slightly different confit garlic, which I think got a mention when I was talking about the confit process, in which the peeled garlic cloves are sort of stewed in oil. Daen Lia - a British chef, shows you how to Confit garlic which is a very useful thing to do because this can be kept under oil for some time and then you can use it in a variety of different dishes: Garlic confit potato mash bake from the same lady for one. Then Ottolenghi has a recipe for Baked rice with confit tomatoes and garlic which I first came across - without a picture in The Guardian. However, when I searched for a picture I found Baked rice with confit tomatoes and garlic on the Lemon Apron website. In the first version baby beetroot and ancho chillies were featured. In the second there was no beetroot or chilli but cinnamon sticks had been added. I don't know which version came first.

Hemsley and Hemsley caramelise their garlic and make Caramelised garlic tart with an almond flour base and so does Ottolenghi but his Caramelised garlic tart which is featured on The Spruce Eats website, doesn't have butternut squash in it too. It has cheese.

But what about those shallots - or eschalots as the Australians seem to call them? They too love to be roasted.

"Banana shallots are a huge favourite in this house, both for their mild oniony flavour and for their sleek, torpedo-like appearance. You can bake them without much ado, when their flesh becomes soft and honeyed and their sweetness develops in the heat. We tend to eat them as a Saturday lunch or Sunday supper, with a piece of unpasteurised Single Gloucester or Caerphilly. Goats' cheese is a fine contender here, too." Nigel Slater

So first of all three different approaches to roasting them: Roasted shallots with olives, bay and balsamic - Mary Cadogan/BBC Good Food; Roasted shallots in a vinegar-thyme bath - Mario Batali/Delish; Roasted shallots with buttery sweet-tart glaze - Daniel Gritzer/Serious Eats

Then having roasted them, what to do with them?: Caramelised shallots with herby labneh - Joudie Kalla; Charred shallots cooked in freekeh - Ottolenghi and Chicken salt eschalot tarte tatin - Katrina Meynink/delicious.

I shouldn't really leave the roasted garlic thing without at least a reference to the Spanish soup, so I chose a version from Spanish chef José Pizarro to illustrate - Creamy milk and roast garlic soup with manchego and green olive toast and the recipe includes a sort of recipe of his mother's much simpler version.

Your eyes have probably glazed over by now with all these recipes. I suspect that you, like I, probably never make any of these delicious looking things. But we should. Set aside a day to try something new, there is so much to experiment with these days.

Considering how Nigella raved about the idea of roasting garlic and shallots they don't seem to feature much in her recipes - at least in those online. Here are the only two I could find - Slow-roasted garlic and lemon chicken and Caramelised garlic hummus. And there are lots of different versions of that out there.

Now how did we ever live without garlic? That's the real question.

And did I mention that this was a lucky dip post. Pull a book at random from a shelf, and open a page at random - Voilà a topic for a post - or a meal to cook for dinner.


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