Lisa’s Letters Home: A Trip to the Garlic Farm

Lisa’s Letters Home: A Trip to the Garlic Farm

It’s Easter holiday time here, which means for two solid weeks, children need to be entertained or they’ll start going loopy. A day of chocolate-filled Easter Bunny-related excitement will take care of part of the Easter break, but the other 13 days is the challenge. This year, we decided to book an English holiday on the charming Isle of Wight for one week. We love self catering accommodation, mostly because the thought of having to take three children under the age of eight out for meals three times a day is horrifying. At the recommendation of a friend, we’re staying on The Garlic Farm (http://thegarlicfarm.co.uk/) in one of their cottages, and it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s a proper working farm with cows on the hills, peacocks and chickens roaming free, several horses, and a very lovely black Labrador called Eric. It has a farm shop filled to the brim with everything garlic, including ice cream and beer. (Haven’t quite braved those ones yet.) It also has a small restaurant that serves fresh, delicious, locally sourced meals and the most wonderful cakes. The only thing that could make this more perfect for me would be if there was a vineyard next door. Or a gin warehouse.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a wooden bowl filled with goodies from the shop: tomato and garlic chutney, garlic bread, chocolate chip cookies (no garlic, thank goodness), and a big fat bulb of garlic. Garlic is one of my favourite ingredients; my grandmother used to add it to everything. I grew my own one year – it’s remarkably simple. You plunk a garlic clove about 6” into the ground, water it every now and then, and pick it about three months later. As it doesn’t need much width, it can grow happily in a container that’s deep enough. Tied together in those fancy braids you see in Italian restaurants and delis, garlic will last for months.

I could write out a hundred recipes that I love and that are garlic-based, but instead I’ll list my Top Eight Things To Do With Garlic in the Kitchen (I like to be different.)

* Stuff it inside a chicken. Every roast chicken I make involves one lemon and a whole bulb of garlic in its nether regions. Cut a lemon and a garlic bulb in half and stuff it inside the bird before roasting. It also helps to make a very tasty gravy.

* Fry it with greens. Grazie to the Italians for this tip – greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.) are absolutely delicious when sautéed quickly with a little olive oil, a crushed clove of garlic, and a squeeze of lemon at the very end with some seasoning. So simple and amazing.

* Roast it. Roasted garlic is sweet, nutty, and makes a creamy spread for a good hunk of crusty bread. Add it to mashed potatoes and vegetable dishes, too. Wrap a whole bulb in foil and roast (I do it right on the oven rack) in a moderate oven for around 20-25 minutes. Cut the top off and squeeze the soft cloves out.

* Boil it. Although you won’t get the same sort of nuttiness that you get with roasted garlic, boiling will take away the harshness and make it much sweeter. Add it to the water (unpeeled and whole) when boiling potatoes and use it for potato salad dressing. This also works very well for cauliflower purees and pasta salads.

* Add it to roasted vegetables. “Hey!” you object. “Didn’t you cover this in points 2 and 3?” Well, sort of. Frying it in oil or roasting it whole tastes a little bit different compared to crushing it and adding it to the roasting tin with your vegetables. Honest. Toss some crushed garlic with oil and your broccoli, green beans, or asparagus before roasting.

* Rub it on bruschetta. Instead of putting chopped garlic on top of bread before putting it under the grill/broiler, grill the bread first then rub it with a clove of garlic. That way, you won’t get garlic overkill and it won’t burn when you toast the bread.

* Make garlic oil. This sounds fancy, but all it means is chucking some garlic cloves in a sterile jar or bottle and covering them with extra virgin olive oil. I keep a jar by the stove and add some oil to the pan when I’m too lazy to chop up some garlic for frying. I’m not sure how long the oil lasts as I usually make it through a jar very quickly.

* Create your own cold and flu remedy with homemade chicken stock made with plenty of garlic. After roasting our weekly chicken (see point 1 above), I freeze the carcass in a plastic bag until I need to make some stock. I tend to use the slow cooker so that I can bung it all together and forget about it for the day. I freeze it in ice cube trays (to use in things like sauces) and bags ready for soup bases.

It’s worth noting that we’ve not spotted any vampires since we got here, which is always a bonus when on holiday.

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2 Comments

  1. Lisa Durbin
    April 08, 15:28 Reply

    We left the Garlic Farm on Friday and I swear, I can still taste garlic. I need a mint!

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