I noticed last week that although I’ve included roast garlic as an ingredient in a few recipes here (use the search tool at the top right of the page if you want to try some when you’ve made this), I’ve never dedicated a post to it. This needs to be addressed, because roast garlic, slipped out of its skins onto crusty bread and popped straight into the mouth, still warm, is one of those things that tastebuds were invented for.
Roast garlic is at its best when you use a bulb of fresh (or ‘green’) garlic – not dried, like the papery garlic you usually buy in the supermarket, but still cream, green and pink, with flexible, cool-feeling skin. Some markets and supermarkets carry it at this time of year and also around October. I’ve seen it in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and the main market in Cambridge, so with a bit of sniffing around (it is very pungent) you should be able to find some. If it’s out of season, never fear; you can also use a dried bulb, and it will still be very good indeed. If you do use dried garlic, try to find a variety that has big, fat cloves. The Really Garlicky Company do a fantastic product, and you can sometimes order fresh garlic from them as well (currently their website says it should be ready in July). As well as mail order, they have a stockists list on the page. Their Patagonian garlic is available in my local Waitrose, and it’s a very superior bulb with huge, juicy cloves which are fragrant and easy to peel.
Picking out herbs to cook with the garlic is fun. I’ve used thyme, oregano, parsley, rosemary and bay from the garden, but you’re not limited to these. Sage is also good, and it’s worth experimenting with whatever green herbs you have to hand. The odd chilli tucked between the cloves can also be good. I’ve used butter to lubricate here, but goose or duck fat is also glorious in this dish. If you decide to use some, use 200g duck fat and 200g butter.
We are greedy when faced with roast garlic, and can get through three bulbs each with some good bread. You may find that six bulbs will happily serve three, or want to keep a couple back as an ingredient for a later recipe. To roast six bulbs you’ll need:
Six bulbs green garlic
3 bay leaves
1 small handful each fresh thyme, oregano and parsley (reserve a little parsley to garnish at the end)
3 large sprigs rosemary
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt and pepper
Slice each bulb of garlic in half across its equator and arrange in a heavy-bottomed roasting tin, tucking the clean spices all around the garlic. Make sure some of the pieces of garlic have their cut sides in the air, and some against the roasting tin, for a lovely variation in texture and stickiness. Dot the butter all over them (I know this is a lot of fat, but you’ll thank me when you taste what’s at the bottom of the dish when you’re done cooking) and drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over to moisten any non-buttery bits. Sprinkle over salt and pepper.
Roast for 40 minutes at 180° C, opening the oven to baste the garlic with the juices three or four times. The house will smell strongly, so open a window. When the garlic is done, the ends of the cloves should be a gorgeous caramel brown. Serve the bulbs up immediately with some really good bread and a little salt for everyone to spike their own garlic with, keeping the cooking dish on the table for dipping in the juices (possibly the most delicious cooking liquid ever). You should be able to pop each clove out of its skin easily, and mash it onto the bread with the ends of a fork.