Black Garlic

How to cook with Black Garlic

by Great British Chefs 25 June 2015

Black Garlic, the latest ingredient to take the foodie world by storm, is great in a huge variety of culinary applications – as a central ingredient, a subtle flavour enhancer or even a healthy snack.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

What is it?

Katy Heath, founder of Balsajo, the original black garlic producer in the UK, told us that Balsajo Black Garlic is aged for several weeks in a temperature and humidity controlled environment, which is adjusted as it develops by the crafts people that make it, much like a fine cheese or cured ham. For this reason, all Black Garlic is not created equal – the skill of the producer is paramount and flavour varies greatly depending on the care and expertise of the maker.

What does it taste like?

One of the remarkable things about Black Garlic is just how many layers of flavour it has. The wonderful balance of sweet and savoury yields notes of molasses, chocolate and dried fruit, coupled with tangy hints of balsamic vinegar, soy sauce and tamarind.

It is intensely flavoured, making dishes richer, darker and more savoury, and it lends real depth to a meal, drawing out and enhancing other components. It brings ‘next day flavour’ to a stew or sauce, without the overnight wait.

Although it has flavourful garlic undertones, it cannot really be compared to using raw, white garlic – the effect it has on food is so different. Importantly, it leaves none of the pungent odour of traditional garlic – the compound that creates this smell is completely absent from aged Black Garlic.

A flavour enhancer…

Inside the Black Garlic

The texture of Black Garlic is unique – tender and soft, almost like a jelly, and it can easily be spread with a knife. You can buy peeled cloves or a whole head and easily process it yourself, but it is also available as a paste for stirring through all kinds of dishes. Unlike white garlic, it doesn’t need long, slow cooking to soften the acrid bite, so can be added at any stage of the cooking process.

Rich in umami, Black Garlic works well in tandem with similarly savoury ingredients, particularly red meat. Katy Heath of Balsajo says in a Bolognese or chilli con carne for four people, about five cloves or 20g of Balsajo Black Garlic Paste is a good place to start. It really cuts through fattiness in meat, so try it blended into a paste with some other seasonings and spread on a piece of beef, pork or venison. You could also mix black garlic paste with some breadcrumbs and fat to use as a flavourful sprinkle. It’s hard to overwhelm a dish with Black Garlic, as although the flavour is concentrated, it is still soft, so you can be generous.

Mushroom dishes too, benefit greatly from the earthy sweetness of Black Garlic – it’d be a fabulous addition to a mushroom risotto, for example – and it’s great with roasted aubergine. Vegetarian dishes, which can always benefit from an umami boost, are a natural home for the distinctive flavours of Black Garlic.

Diluted in dressings, marinades or soups is another favourite application – just mash a clove or two and blend with the other ingredients, or just mix in if you’re using the paste. Blended with soy sauce and a little chilli, it makes a fantastic stir-fry sauce. Top French chef Pascal Aussignac makes a gorgeous, silky, black garlic aioli which he serves with dishes as varied as Mussels ‘popcorn’ at his pop-up Duck ‘n’ Roll and Duck pastrami at his restaurant Cellar Gascon.

Cheese is another great match, and Black Garlic goes particularly well with a salty feta or creamy blue. Any cheese board or antipasti platter would benefit from swapping a sweet onion chutney for a head of beautiful, smoky Black Garlic or a jar of the paste. For a quick but luxurious snack, cheese on toast with Black Garlic is pretty special.

Black Garlic is fast gaining traction as a high-end ingredient, and several of our great British chefs feature it in their dishes. Michelin-starred chef, Steve Drake (Drake’s Restaurant), uses it to enliven fish in this Grey mullet with pearl barley pudding, black garlic and spring onion. Steven Smith (Freemasons at Wiswell) matches it with chicken, naturally lacking in umami, in this Chicken with black garlic, mushrooms and asparagus. Anna Hansen (Modern Pantry), a chef well known for championing creative new ingredients, also pairs it with fish, echoing the very subtle liquorice tones of black garlic in her Black garlic, liquorice and macadamia crusted Alaska salmon with tomatillo salsa. You can use Anna Hansen’s treatment of Black Garlic – as flavouring for a crust – in all manner of other dishes too, from meats to chunky vegetables.

Black Garlic is an easy way to feign cheffy credentials, easily elevating almost any dish to the realms of gourmet. It’s even used in sweet applications, its dark caramel taste popping up in cocktails, ice creams and other unusual dishes.

Removing the skin
Individual cloves

A snack…

Katy Heath of Balsajo says it’s also great as a snack. Children in particular are very receptive to eating whole cloves – and what healthier snack could there be than Black Garlic which is sweet only from the concentration of natural sugars and contains twice as many anti-oxidants as white garlic. She told us she often has to take the tub off her young son, mindful after thirty cloves that there can be too much of a good thing!