When only great garlic will do.

Much to my dismay, I have become fussy about the quality of garlic I use. No one who knows me would associate me and my palate with the word ‘refined’, so getting fussy about garlic is rather unexpected. Apart from being vegan, I’m not particularly particular about what I eat. I’m especially not particularly particular if someone else makes the meal. Sadly, that doesn’t happen very often, and due to my own lacklustre interest in producing culinary delights, I find that the variety of food I eat has increasingly decreased (this phrase was once used in a news item, and is very much a linguistic delight).

I still eat well enough, and my limited meal-making skills and food range don’t distress me, so there was nothing that alerted me to the buggerance of suddenly getting fussy over the quality of garlic I use. It started with using some garlic my bro grew himself, followed up by some I bought at the farmers market. Even I, with my unrefined palate, could taste the difference, and there was no going back. This is not good news to a non-foodie.

So, today I needed to go back to the farmers market (my bro has moved away) and get more garlic. To be honest, I don’t use it much, but I make a killer coriander pesto – recipe below – which dies without great garlic. I tried using garlic paste in my pesto once, and the less said about that the better. Having just spent the last two paragraphs writing words to the effect about what a crap cook I am, I do have one or two things that I don’t do too badly, if I say so myself – which I have to, after all, no one else is likely to go into a paroxysm of compliments about my culinary achievements, including myself normally. However, my killer coriander pesto is one of those things I pat myself on the back for, and if others are slightly less enthusiastic, they’re clearly having a bad day.

But, the bloody man at the market who sells the garlic wasn’t there today!

Then I spied him at the information stall. I stomped over to it in great indignation and gave him a serve about not having any garlic here. Nah – of course I didn’t. I asked him very nicely if he happened to have his garlic on any of the other stalls there today. No, he said, there’ll be no more garlic until Show Weekend, which is the colloquialism for Canterbury Anniversary Weekend in mid-November. Well, that was a bit far away to wait before I made any more killer coriander pesto. However, the conversation wasn’t over. Clearly passionate about garlic, and as it turned out also just a very pleasant bloke, he told me of three supermarkets around the city where I could currently get decent garlic, if I didn’t mind being bankrupted for it. What could I do except agree that bankruptcy was a small price to pay for great garlic. He sealed my commitment to hunting it down with the admission that he himself had bought some and planted it.

Off I went and got my $56/kilo bulb. Here it is – ain’t it $4 of pure beauty? Check out those nice big fat bulgy cloves in it, instead of mean skinny ones. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, actually, but they look good, and I flatter myself that it makes me sound almost as though I know what I’m talking about – I think.

Garlic bulb supreme.

Now for the pièce de resistance – my killer coriander pesto recipe – which is pretty flexible, apart from using the best garlic:

Katrina’s Killer Coriander Pesto

  • 2 cups of roughly chopped and packed coriander, including the stalks apart from the grubby ends. You’ll end up with a few bits of stalk in the pesto, but don’t worry, just get it down ya. Wash the coriander before chopping it, and then get rid of the excess water off it in a salad spinner, if you have one.
  • 1 big fat clove of great garlic, or two or three mean skinny cloves (or more to taste), diced into tiny, tiny pieces
  • ¼ cup of any good oil (I use locally grown rapeseed oil)
  • 2 Tbsp miso – the brown or tan-coloured type
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice, either fresh or bottled (a friend told me that the bottled juice may be bit a bit stronger in taste)
  • ¼ cup toasted cashews, or anything other nuts or seeds

Put all the ingredients except the cashews into a blender – they will be added last, so they don’t blend too fine and stay a bit chunky. Pulse-blend a few times, scraping the sides of the bowl between pulses, until the pesto is almost at the desired consistency. It won’t take much blending to get to this stage. Put in the cashews now, and pulse-blend a little more until the cashews have been chopped up a bit. That’s it!

Use in all the usual places, and any others besides – my bro-in-law likes using it on a pizza base, too.

This pesto freezes well, and lasts up to seven days covered in the fridge (but, full confession, I’ve used it after seven days and it hasn’t given me a guts-ache or anything).

Bon appétit!

15 thoughts on “When only great garlic will do.

  1. In the past I’ve not wanted to faff about with the peeling etc of ‘real’ garlic, buying preminced stuff in a jar. But I’d rather have NZ grown produce, so I’ve succumbed to the exorbitant prices too.
    I hate coriander, but enjoy your pesto!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not wild about coriander but love pesto anything, so I would be willing to give this recipe a try. I am also a fanatic about fresh, high quality garlic: I cook a lot of Indian dishes that require braised minced garlic stirred into the sauce, and the canned paste stuff just doesn’t cut it. My older daughter, who learned to cook from her Indian mother-in-law, uses the junk in a jar because some days she can’t be bothered to peel and mince garlic. (For the record, her mother-in-law does not use garlic paste out of a jar, but she is also a wizard with a kitchen knife and can peel and mince a whole bulb in a minute, something I can’t do because I’m terrified I’ll cut my fingertips off, as I did once centuries ago.) Since most days my daughter is cooking for a couple of kids who could care less about garlic, it doesn’t matter, I suppose. But I can really taste the difference, and so go hunting for fat bulbs of fresh garlic at the farmers’ market.

    But is it garlic season in NZ? You’re sliding into early spring right now, right? Here in California it is high summer and desert hot, and the produce boxes are filled with garlic, though the height of our season was last month. One of the local towns has a Garlic Festival which features all things garlic, including garlic ice cream. I take a hard pass there: as much as I like garlic, there are some things that should not be tainted by the fragrant bulb, ice cream in particular.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I forget that some people don’t like coriander, but other greens can be substituted. Once I would have considered myself the sort of person who would be content with “junk in a jar”, so this desire for good quality garlic is a mystery from out of the blue. I really don’t know much about growing seasons, but you’re right that we’re coming into Spring – it officially starts on 1st September. A garlic festival would be something – I must check if such a thing happens here in NZ. I’m with you that I would give garlic ice-cream a hard pass – or would I? Seeing as I no longer appear to be the person I thought I was, who knows? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t know that there were so many types of garlic. Fascinating! I also use my pesto on toast and in sandwiches/bread rolls, pasta, potatoes, pizza (thanks to my bro-in-law). Not much is too sacred for it, so no reason not to include Indian food in that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Frances Sullivan

    Wonderful story and although I’m one of the non-lovers of the pretty-shade of green coriander, the recipe is worth trying with something else. I once consulted with a restaurant called Garlic’s (everything down to the ice cream), but have gone off it the last few years. Maybe I should explore?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love pesto. I’ll definitely try this though miso isn’t something I have around at home. The only thing I know how to do with miso is miso soup… what else is there? As to garlic, our Aussie garlic is much harder to peel than European garlic, I’ve found. I like it browned in olive oil first then you use both in the pesto, oil and garlic. Your casual recipe style thrums with me

    Liked by 1 person

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