Written by: Mpho Deane
As a self-taught chef, my journey of cooking over the years has been one of peeling away the layers of what I believed chef-ing should be. Your identity, your happiness and everything that makes you the complex being that you are is all entangled in the food you produce. So it became important for me to boldly embrace and cook the food I loved and the food I felt came naturally to me. So, I found myself not paying much attention to some cuisines as it felt very far removed for me. French cuisine admittedly being at the top of that list. Firstly, I need to qualify this by saying, I absolutely appreciate French cuisine. What makes this cuisine beautiful in my eyes is its delicate approach in cooking, technique of course and the sacrosanctity of time.
This marriage produces art. So, I have somewhat ignorantly carried on not exploring all that it has to offer. I know in culinary school, French cooking is taught mainly for its techniques as the French have preparation and cooking methods that extract flavour beautifully. Its pure genius and just such a necessary show off. This is true about garlic confit. Garlic is such a beautiful and interesting allium. It produces different notes of flavour with each different technique you use. Whether sliced or crushed, roasted or fried. Interestingly,
I have realized that it is very delicate, and volatile. The more forceful your process e.g. crushing, the harsher the flavour it will produce. But the gentler your process like simmering the cloves in low heat, the sweeter, softer and more composite the flavour it will produce. So in theme with my first article, I want to share another best kept pantry secret… Garlic
Much like the French duck legs submerged in fat and cooked with low heat, you can also produce a really great flavoured oil and garlic that has unending uses in the kitchen. The end result is this super soft squishy garlic that near melts away at a touch. Its gentle in taste but such an enhancer to vegetables, salad dressings, creamed cheeses, butters etc. Let's try it out…
What you need:
1 head of garlic with the cloves peeled
1 cup of olive oil
Sprigs of your favourite herb, I use bay leaf, and thyme
½ tsp of chilli flakes
Place all the above in a small saucepan and over medium heat, bring the oil to just a hint of a simmer, before bringing it down to a poach. Let it cook for about 30-40 min until the garlic is soft. Pour the garlic oil into a clean jar and let the mixture cool down before sealing and storing in the refrigerator. It should last about a month in the fridge.