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Those of you who watch Masterchef may have seen contestant Tim cooking a dish involving black garlic at New York restaurant wd-50 in the second stage of the competition’s finals. After posting a link to an article about the arrival of black garlic in the UK a few months back, the PR agency for Black Garlic – the UK company responsible for sales of the product to the UK market – contacted me and asked if I’d like some samples and recipes using the product to test out. Silly question…

Already used in the States, black garlic is now making waves over here and has already been used by chefs such as Marco Pierre White, Heston Blumenthal and Nigella Lawson. Using no additives whatsoever, the ingredient is made using a fermentation process that produces melanoidin, which gives the garlic its black colour. Over the course of three weeks, garlic bulbs are fermented in a patented machine in which heat and humidity are controlled, before being placed on special racks to dry and cool for a further week…producing garlic that looks like this:

It doesn’t just look different: taste, texture and smell are all completely different from “normal” garlic. Consistency-wise, it’s more like soft dried fruit, and is incredibly messy to cut. It smells incredibly sweet, and the taste…well, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. The garlic flavour is still there in the background, but isn’t at all overpowering – it’s a molasses and liquorice-like sweetness that’s the dominant flavour here.

The flavour, combined with its health benefits (it has twice as many antioxidants as normal garlic) plus the fact that it doesn’t make your breath smell explain why the back of the pack of two bulbs that I was sent suggested that it can be eaten raw as a healthy snack. I, however, had other plans, and invited friends over for dinner…

…only telling them once they’d confirmed that all three courses would include the ingredient 😀 I used recipes from the Black Garlic website – having never tried it before, I wasn’t going to take any risks! First up was a starter of black garlic stuffed mushrooms, omitting the red pepper from the recipe as one guest can’t stand them.

The chunks of sliced black garlic worked surprisingly well with the earthiness of the mushrooms and the lemon juice and parsley in the filling – we all agreed that the peppers weren’t really needed. To be honest, I think it would have been far too sweet with those as well.

Next up, a main course of pork fillet with a black garlic creamy apple sauce and black garlic roasties. I was a little bit worried at first about the amount of sweetness going into the sauce (garlic, apple sauce, cider) but the sage and chicken stock seemed to balance it out. The roasties were seriously good, though – I’ve definitely got to get some more black garlic and do those again!

I would just like to point out that I don’t really do desserts, and presentation isn’t my strong point! It was a toss up between a couple of recipes on the website…but it was the Amaretto in the poached nectarines in black garlic and Amaretto syrup that sold the final choice to me. I changed the recipe slightly by using plums instead of nectarines, but it seemed to work well, served with mascarpone and crushed Amaretti biscuits on the top.

An interesting evening. It’s certainly a lot more fiddly than normal garlic (if you’re chopping the stuff finely, I recommend dousing your knife in hot water every so often otherwise you’ll struggle with its stickiness), but adds a unique and interesting flavour to dishes. There are a lot more recipes on the Black Garlic website that I’d like to try, especially the chicken liver and black garlic pate, which I think would work very well indeed!

But for the real test…what did the friends (including a professional chef, which was…terrifying, actually) think? They knew this would be going up on the blog, so all happily provided feedback…

Very pleasant. Definitely a sweeter, lighter, less invasive taste than normal garlic. Slight curry smell to it, liquorice consistency. Worked really well with the pork and roasties.

It was sweet and not how I imagined it would be, but very pleasant. 

It was lush! Surprised by how sweet and subtle it tasted, not garlicky. Definitely worked in all three dishes.

Subtle garlic hint with a bit of spice. It’s not overpowering and just blends in in the background.

The great news is that black garlic is already available to buy in Bristol! Wild Oats on Lower Redland Road have it in stock – currently in store they have 25g pouches of peeled black garlic cloves available for £2.35, or you can buy from their online shop. You can also buy 50g tubs from Ocado for £3.99, and Tesco will be stocking the product in-store as of May 27th.

It would be great to hear about any other experiences other people have had with black garlic – who knows, it may end up being just another foodie fad, but I’m impressed so far…

One thought on “Adventures with black garlic…”

  1. I've just discovered black garlic and am deeply impressed! What lovely stuff – I wonder, in fact, if |I'll be brave enough to try the dessert item!

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