Punch up the flavour!



Every now and then I have a desire to cook really strong tasting food. You know the type, reduced, spiced, seasoned, a blunt instrument though hopefully in a velvet glove…the sort of food that makes an Argentine swoon and not in a good way. Yesterday was one of those days. I have decided not to make another curry until my terrace based chili farm comes to fiery fruition but was pondering other flavours that could be intense or intensified…and with inflation and import restrictions truffles were off the menu. I settled on playing with garlic.

And yesterday was stock day, a monthly event that happens when I peer into the freezer and find it empty of flavoursome frozen liquid and have to resort to a cube. The fact is that chicken carcasses are thankfully not in huge demand so if you spend as much time at home as I do, buying as many kilos as will fit into the biggest pot you own, roasting then for a bit and them throwing them into said pot with a couple of onions, some ginger (for warmth) and a bit of star anise (and lots of water of course) makes perfect sense. 20 pesos and you have the base for umpteen meals (and don’t forget to make the heavy stock from the first few of hours of bubbling and a light stock from subjecting the carcasses to another round – after all sometimes you need something more flavoursome than water but not definitively chickeny).

So the heavy, brown, creamy, roast chicken stock was the velvet glove (though in itself it would have made a Jewish mother proud), now I needed the blunt instrument. And a little trawl of the internet provided a lot of suggestions. I finally settled on a roast garlic and potato soup. Using LOTS of garlic, but roasted for an hour and something to melt and sweeten it. Easy enough, hack off the top of 4 heads of garlic, plenty of oil on some foil on a roasting tray, cut side down, tent the foil, roast and cool, and most of the succulent cloves will stick to the foil and extract themselves as you pull back on the skin (videos of this luscious event are legally available on Youtube). And as for the spuds, well it seemed a shame to leave them naked and cubed while the garlic was transforming itself from strident to mellow, so I roasted them with a load of fresh rosemary thinking that the difference in texture and crunchy bits would make stuff more interesting when blitzed in the blender.

Ingredients done, time to put it together. Cook a couple of finely chopped onions preferably in the chicken fat you skimmed off your stock (if not in olive oil). Once translucent throw in your garlic and smooch it up a bit over high heat. Sprinkle over a palm full of flour (you don’t need much as the potatoes do the thickening) but cook till nicely browned stirring all the time and then a good glug (ok, half a bottle) of white wine of dubious quality. Bubble like you hate it and are trying to do it harm. Then turn the heat down a bit and add the spuds and a couple of litres of stock, ladle by ladle, or just throw it all in if there is something good on TV, though you will need to stir in the commercial breaks which seem conveniently frequent these days. How much stock do you really need? Well that depends on how much garlic you can handle. 4 heads seem to go a long way. Keep the tasting spoon handy and be aware that once blitzed it tastes stronger.

Cool, liquidize, realise you have a lot of soup, ring more friends, make some croutons, realise that the bacon you still have in the fridge will be delicious on top once blasted with heat and crumbled on top, heat up again, understand that your best friend’s girlfriend is going to refuse to eat it fearing her breath won’t be of celebrity status in the nightclub later, tell the girl with the impending cold that her health problems are sorted (unless she send a lot of time in the bathroom “powdering” her nose), and enjoy!

Let me know if roasted garlic and potatoes has a taste reminiscent of globe artichokes? In the best possible way though??

If you want to get fancy, pair it with my beetroot, feta and roast cashew recipe and call it “Pungent Tastes from the Earth”. And it’s strong so it goes a long way!

Or just make a little fresh Oregano crouton (what, you don’t have a bush of the stuff on your terrace – shame on you, it grows like a weed), and keep the rest to eat during the week. It’s got no cream or fancy stuff so shouldn’t go off.

Like it or hate it, you won’t tell me its dull (although the photo is).


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