Thursday 22 March 2018

Oh Allicin... fall in love garlic

Here's another good reason, says Susan Jane White, to resurrect your love affair with super-duper garlic

Garlic is a powerful antioxidant
Garlic is a powerful antioxidant
Susan Jane White

Garlic is one of the most valuable superfoods on earth. Don't knock it for its honk. That kiss-busting smell can help slay bugs and serenade the heart. Quite the defibrillator, I'm assured.

Garlic houses a supersonic compound called allicin. Research shows that allicin can help to reduce cholesterol levels. World famous cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Mehmet Oz, stresses the importance of using raw garlic for healthy hearts, and not the powder or the stuff found in plastic tubes. This is because allicin is not actually in garlic. Confusing, right?

Fresh, raw garlic contains an amino acid called alliin. (Scientists look away now, while I mutilate your language). When a clove of garlic is finely chopped or minced, the alliin reacts with an enzyme that is naturally occurring elsewhere in the clove, called alliinase.

This enzyme turns alliin into allicin. Groovy, eh? Seems like a pretty impressive construction by Mother N, designed to protect the plant when under attack. And therein lies its potency.

The stability and strength of allicin can be preserved if the minced garlic is then suspended in some oil - as in the recipe below. Otherwise, with time, its integrity withers away. Garlic's antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties peak when allicin is created. So, next time you have a scratchy throat, try finely chopped garlic and olive oil on some crusty sourdough. Who could refuse such a remedy?

Cheat's Romesco Sauce

Makes 12 single servings.

I like to tumble this romesco sauce through big bowls of zoodles - zucchini noodles, obvs. If you like, you can add some pan-fried chorizo on top, or creamy clouds of goat's cheese.

You will need:

3 red peppers

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 plum tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

30g (1oz) sourdough bread and 50g (2oz) ground almonds; or 80g (3oz) ground almonds

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

2-3 tablespoons sweet sherry vinegar

1-2 cloves garlic, peeled

Preheat the oven to 220°C, 420°F, Gas 7. Cut the peppers into chunks, discarding the seeds and stems. Tumble the pepper chunks onto your largest roasting tray with a tablespoon of the extra-virgin olive oil and roast for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the plum tomatoes in half, season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper, a tablespoon of the extra-virgin olive oil and roast them on another large tray for 20 minutes until they are charred. Turn off the oven after 20 minutes, and leave the trays of peppers and tomatoes in the oven for a further 10 minutes (if the peppers are blackening around the sides, let some heat out of the oven).

If you're using the sourdough bread, then use a food processor to whizz the sourdough, along with the 50g (2oz) ground almonds, into fine breadcrumbs. If you're using the 80g (3oz) of ground almonds, put them in the food processor.

Next, add the roasted peppers and the roasted plum tomatoes to the food processor, ensuring that you include all the juices from the roasting trays. Add the smoked paprika, the sweet sherry vinegar, the peeled garlic and some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Blitz until sumptuous, but not smooth. Stir through the remaining extra-virgin olive oil. Serve with your Sunday roast, morning eggs, or bowls of zoodles.

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