If your automatic instinct when you read a non desi recipe is to double the garlic then hello you kindred spirit you and welcome to my inner foodie circle. If you tastebuds are a little more refined then please excuse my garlic loving soul. I truly find it fascinating how much the flavour of garlic changes when it is sliced, diced, minced or made into the ubiquitous Garlic Paste. The way you to cut it transforms your dish, but the way it is used most in South Asian cooking is in paste form.
Garlic paste is unquestionably one of the cornerstones of South Asian cooking and here I am going to break down for you how to make it, what to make it with, and how to store it.
Why You SHOULD Make Fresh Garlic Paste
When you make garlic paste the aroma and flavour is rich, inviting, fresh. When you buy garlic paste aroma is not a word I would use to describe the smell. All non frozen iterations of garlic paste use a preservative of some sort (vinegar or something similar) to extend shelf life. As a result a sabzi like this Aloo Shimla Mirch won't have the same clean flavour as it would if you used jarred garlic.
Now naturally busy times call for time saving measures so do what you need to, but if you can make time to make your own paste then that is ideal.
Pre peeled versus Unpeeled garlic
I know there is a part of us that truly wants to believe that freshest is best. However, when it comes to peeled garlic cloves versus a garlic head that just is not true. Flavour wise both are equally good and convenience wise the peeled trumps the whole head any day. Just please once over that bag to make sure it has that the garlic cloves have no white spots, excess moisture or a shriveled appearance.
HOWEVER, please do check where your garlic comes from. There have been reports of garlic that originates in China being peeled by prisoners in inhumane conditions.
How to peel garlic
There are three popular approaches
1.) slice the top off and take off the papery skin with a paring knife
2.) place your garlic cloves in a jar with a lid and shake all your days frustrations out.
3.) place your garlic cloves on a board and smash with the side of a chefs knife. Separate the skin and cloves.
What is the best way to peel Garlic cloves?
My favourite way hands down is the last one. The pruning and paring I find too tedious, the shake in a jar approach did not lead to all the skin always coming off, but the third is quick and satisfying.
If you have another approach you love do leave it in the comments below!
Water or Oil: What Makes the Best Garlic Paste
If you have read the Ginger Paste post then you know about my little food science experiment, but let's recap it here in case you haven't.
In the interest of seeing what makes for the best garlic paste I had made one batch with water, one with oil. Each batch was "tested" at a one week interval for 3 weeks for aroma and flavour (by using it in a chicken curry).
While the oil did a fantastic job of maintaining the Ginger Pastes bright pepperiness it dulled that off the Garlic. When it was freshly ground it was good, but as time passed it faded more and more and I had to force myself to use that last little bit up.
A little note on time: there is no question in my mind that the week one garlic paste is better than the week three garlic paste. That said, it still works by the end of week three (IMHO).
Steps to making garlic paste
Peeled garlic, meet water, meet blender. I love my mini blender attachment for this one.
Yes, yes you can disregard my garlic opinions and use oil if you'd like.
How should I store Garlic Paste and for how long?
Obviously it is at it's best freshest, but garlic paste ground up with water remains delightfully garlicky for up to three weeks. If you are making a large batch and want it to last longer the freezer is your friend. You can freeze it in ice cube trays and use them directly from the freezer or do what I usually do and make two jars.
I keep one in the freezer and one in the fridge. When the fridge one runs out then I defrost the freezer one.
Garlic Paste Problems
Problem One: I have too few cloves to make an actual paste, what do I do?
A garlic press is your friend. Bonus: you don't even need to peel your garlic, the press will do the work!
Problem Two: My garlic paste has turned green, has it gone bad?
No. Garlic contains certain compounds that can react with changes in temperature, the materials they come into contact with, etc. However, despite the garlic is still completely safe to consume.
Problem Three: I use very little in a week
If you are actually going to go through it slowly then the freezer is your friend. Freeze small amounts (a teaspoon sized portions) in ice cube trays and take them out as you need.
How to Make Garlic Paste
- 1 mini blender (double quantities to use a bigger one)
- 1 cup garlic cloves (140g)
- ¼ cup water (may need a tbsp more)
- Add your garlic cloves to the blender with ¼ cup water. Blitz.
- If the blender isn't pureeing it easily then add a little more water and puree again.
- Store in a clean jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks or in a freezer for up to 3 months