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My goodness, garlic

Tasting

DELICIOUS AND EASY Baked garlic and onion cream soup is a perfect winter warmer.

Food

Redmond Cabot

There will be no vampires batting down the Cabots’ door this Halloween! The Brunette is going in for garlic growing. Consignments of different cultivars are coming from far and wide. Music. Solent. Lautrec. Asian Tempest. Persian Star. Hardnecks and softnecks. Big, plump, juicy bulbs of garlic, not the tight white ones you see in most supermarkets.
She will sow the crop over autumn – one clove of garlic yields a bulb – and experiment with different varieties to find the best flavours and yields. I am a happy taster guinea pig!
When I was growing up, garlic was up there with snails and frogs legs. It wasn’t an item on the weekly shopping list. Back then, many more people grew their own veg. Potatoes, carrots, cabbages, turnips and onions were all common. Garlic wasn’t in our sights then, but it grows perfectly well in Ireland.
These days, garlic is a staple – both for its flavour and its considerable health benefits. Most of it is imported from China, the rest from Spain. After years of research and land preparations, husband and wife team Peter Collier and Marita Varley from Drummond House farm in County Laois harvested their first garlic crop in 2014. They are now the country’s biggest producer of homegrown garlic, and demand far outstrips supply.
If delicious garlic grows here and people can make a living from it and enjoy growing it and make consumers happy – why don’t more of us get growing?
And it’s easy to get a quick fix – just make some garlic bread. Simply crush the garlic, mix with good Irish salted butter, add mix in some chopped parsley, lather on the bread and bake in a hot oven for around eight minutes.

Baked Garlic and Onion Cream Soup
There are thousands of dishes that contain garlic. This is one I want to share because it is cheap, simple and utterly delicious, especially on a cold winter’s night. It was created by chef Fleur Campbell and appeared in one of the Avoca Café cookbooks.

What you need

  • 6 onions (peeled and quartered)
  • 2 garlic heads, cloves peeled by left whole
  • 1.2 litres chicken or veg stock
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 300ml cream
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Stale bread for croutons

What you do
Place the onions and garlic in a baking tin with half the stock. Sprinkle with thyme, pepper and salt and dot with the butter. Cover with foil and bake in an oven preheated to 180ºc degrees for one-and-a-half hours, stirring twice in this time.
Remove from the oven and purée in batches in a blender. Pour into a saucepan and add the remaining stock and cream. Adjust the seasoning and gently heat through without letting it boil.
To make the croutons, cut the bread into 1cm cubes, toss with a bit of oil and fry over a moderate heat till golden. Sprinkle the soup with the croutons and parsley, serve and enjoy.

Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.