This month I thought I would look at Garlic which is part of the onion family and is closely related to the leek, chive and shallot. It is native to Central Asia and northeastern Iran and has long been a common seasoning worldwide. Garlic has been found to help prevent many diseases and numerous modern studies confirm that Garlic has definite antibiotic properties and is effective against a wide spectrum of bacteria, fungi and viruses. Some studies also claim the health benefits of Garlic include lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, an anti-inflammatory, reducing the risk of cancer and strengthening the immune system. Some people eat 4g of raw Garlic every day believing the benefits are worth it, but I prefer mine roasted. Garlic is a brilliant tool when cooking and just the aroma can make my mouth water. Below are some recipes, old and new, to try.
Buen Apetito

Roasted Garlic
Peel loose paper off. Trim the top off. Drizzle with olive oil. Wrap in tin foil and bake for 40 minutes, oven 180ºC/gas mark 5.
Let the Garlic cool slightly. Push Garlic through the remaining paper and serve. Can store up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Garlic Ciabatta
1 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp butter , softened
1 bunch of basil
1 small ciabatta
2 tbsp grated parmesan (or vegetarian alternative)
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Heat the grill to high. Beat together the mayonnaise, butter and Garlic cloves until smooth. Chop basil, stir and season with salt and pepper. Put the halves of the ciabatta, sliced lengthways, on a baking tray and spread with the butter mix. Add basil, sprinkle with grated Parmesan, then grill for 2-3 mins.

Garlic Mushrooms and Cheese
250g small mushrooms
50g butter
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lg slice white bread
4 tbsp finely grated parmesan (or vegetarian alternative)
3 tbsp chopped chive
Salt & Pepper
Olive oil

Heat oven to 200ºC/fan 180ºC/gas 6. Twist and remove the stalks from the mushrooms and place them, cap side up, on a small baking tray. Melt the butter in a frying pan and, once it starts to froth, stir through the Garlic and cook for 1 min. Grate the slice of bread to fine crumbs and add to the pan. Cook, stirring for 2 mins, until lightly toasted. Transfer to a bowl and cool before stirring through the finely grated Parmesan, chives and seasoning. Spoon into the mushroom caps, drizzle with a little olive oil and bake for 10 mins until slightly softened and the tops turn golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Garlic Mash Bake
1kg potatoes, pealed and chopped
Butter for frying
1 garlic clove , finely chopped
140ml pot single cream or milk
25g dried white bread crumbs
25g Gruyere cheese, grated
2 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped

Cook the potatoes in a large pan of water for 15 mins or until soft. Drain well. Place the pan back on the heat. Melt a little butter and cook the Garlic for 1 min to soften, then stir in the cream or milk and heat through. Return the potatoes to the pan and mash until smooth. Heat oven to 180ºC/fan 160ºC/gas 4. Spoon the mixture into a 20 x 30cm baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, cheese and thyme over the top. Can be made up to this point the day before and stored in the fridge or frozen for up to 1 month. Cook for 15 mins until the crumbs are crisp and the cheese has melted. To cook from frozen, simply cook for 1 hr 10 mins.
Easy Chicken Kiev
6 garlic cloves – 2 peeled
Small bunch flat-leaf parsley
85g fresh breadcrumbs
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
4 tbsp garlic & herb soft cheese
4 tsp olive oil

Heat oven to 200ºC/180ºC fan/gas 6. Whizz together the 2 peeled garlic cloves, parsley and 1 tsp olive oil in a food processor. Add the breadcrumbs and seasoning and mix. Tip onto a plate. Cut a slit (roughly thumb-length) in the side of each chicken breast, at the plump end. Spoon ¼ of the soft cheese into each hole and press the edges together to seal. Rub 2 tsp oil over all the chicken breasts before pressing the herby crumbs onto them. Place the coated chicken in a shallow roasting tin. Scatter round the remaining unpeeled garlic cloves and drizzle with the rest of the oil. Bake for 20-25 mins until the chicken is cooked and crumbs crisp and golden. Squeeze out the soft, roasted garlic from the skins and serve with the chicken.