Monday, March 26, 2007

Garlic Bread

I love garlic - the creamy colour tinged with purple, the smoothness of it when peeled, the light scent it leaves on your fingers when you cook with it, the smell of it frying in butter or oil, the melting softness of it if you roast it in foil with a splash of olive oil. Many years ago I went to the cinema to see a documentary about Werner Herzog called 'Burden of Dreams' made by the American documentarist Les Blank. It was a double bill starting with another Blank film called 'Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers' an amazing, wonderful, extraordinary paean to this little stink bomb. It's not only me that loved this film that was made in 1980. This film is so great that the US Library of Congress deemed it to be 'culturally significant' in 2004 and selected it for the National Film Registry for preservation in perpetuity.

At the end of the film we went home inspired with the number of garlic treats we'd never sampled and tried out baking heads of garlic till soft then squeezing the warm soft paste onto crusty bread. Wow! My friend Vicki picked me up next morning on the way to work. Recoiling in horror she said 'Bloody hell you stink! How much garlic did you eat last night? Wind down that window or walk!!!' Though she was my friend I knew that she meant it. I nonchalantly hung my head out the window for the rest of the journey and kept my distance for the rest of the day. Later I introduced her to the pleasures of making decorative patterns with molten garlic onto bread before eating the lot - if you both smell of garlic nobody notices. Perfect.

These days I don't make that version very often - though I still recommend it amongst consenting adults. I make, most often, the one I used to eat at home as a kid, made by my very own one good mother pretty much as often as we had spaghetti bolognese. It is still blissfully good.

Garlic Bread
1 baguette, thick as possible in diameter to allow for plenty of surface to spread
125g/4oz butter (NEVER margarine)
4-12 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A couple of tablespoons of soft cheese - whatever you like or have a little of
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to gas 4/moderate. Slice the bread into 2cm/1inch segments down to, but not through the base. Mix the rest of the ingredients thoroughly then spread both sides of each slice with a generous slather of butter. Place the bread onto a piece of aluminium foil and wrap firmly. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes then open out the foil and cook for another 10 minutes till the outside crust is crisp.


The only thing to bear in mind is no matter how much garlic bread you make you will eat it all. So, big loaf and four people, no leftovers. Big loaf and two people, still no leftovers. Best cook extra.

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