Tag Archives: fxcuisine

Vampire-proof French garlic soup

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If everyone ate more garlic, the world would be a happier place
Ruth Reichl, Comfort Me With Apples

 

I’ve sometimes wondered why people thought garlic helps to ward off vampires. Is it the “righteous” pungency; the undeniable whiff of, um, holiness? Hopes that vampire virus will be killed by garlic’s antioxidants, a belief that no one can chew on a mouthful of raw garlic and survive? Or, is it due to ‘Vampire disease’ or porphyria, the result of in-breeding among the European nobility – is Count Dracula just a misunderstood, new-age (light and garlic-) sensitive guy?

Whatever the reason, I was intrigued by a soup that was described as “[t]his one will keep your house safe from vampires for a year at least.”

This French garlic soup has venerable but mysterious origins. Francois Xavier of fxcuisine found this recipe in Larousse de la cuisine des familles (alas, I couldn’t find that book anywhere, even online), “presented as a family recipe from a Provence mama.” The soup is made with a garlicky olive oil roux, which is mixed with the roasted garlic, cooked to a smooth consistency and slight nuttiness, then thinned with water or stock and simmered to fragrant soupy-ness. There is very little else besides perfectly roasted, semi confited garlic bulbs (which I also blogged about last weekend) and a handful of herbs. Even the pasta to bulk up the soup is, I think, kind of optional.

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This is not a Parisian glamourpuss. Light brown in colour, slightly lumpy in a stew-soupy way, it was a lesson in how brown food is not a food blogger’s photography dream.

But, one taste and I was hooked. Potage de creamy, complex and comforting garlic? Yes please!

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Comfort: roasted caramelised whole garlic and slow ribs

The world has felt out of kilter this week.

The flood of images from Boston; strange encounters at work and after work; a sudden drop in temperature catapulting us from late summer into early winter.

And this morning, one of those torrential, tropical downpours that reminds Sydney siders life is not all about sunburn and beaches. None of those polite drizzles, this was rain with fat, heavy raindrops far heavier than any water saving showerhead can produce. The kind of rain that floods footpaths and cafes, gets under your umbrella and splashes up to knee height, and has us talking about carpentry skills for building Noah’s Ark.

It didn’t feel like a baking day, as I had planned. It was a day for a hot toddy, lemon ginger apple juice, or mulled wine, or congee or chicken soup. Something that says comfort blanket. A day for warm fireplaces, long slow braises, and slooooow roasted ribs and whole garlic.

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The roasted garlic is simple to make, but yields such complex flavours. Whole heads of garlic are cut in half horizontally, then placed, cut face down, in a puddle of olive oil and baked for almost an hour and a half. After an hour, a gorgeous, warm smell, laced with caramel sweetness and with none of that raw garlic bite, fills the kitchen. The garlic bulbs shrink as they caramelise, so the outer layers of the garlic either lift off, or holds the garlic bulbs so loosely they are easily dug out with a small fork.

The garlic bulbs can be spread on toasted crusty bread, added to a dish of roasted sliced potato, or made into a thick garlic soup (soup coming soon), or mashed into almost anything, really.

The slow roasted oven ribs are also lovely, fall-apart-with-thick-sauce lovely. This (I think southern) recipe seemed so simple yet produces such beautiful looking results, it was only a matter of time before I gave it a go. Ribs are coated in a dry rub, wrapped in foil (I use two layers to be sure), and roasted on a slow oven for up to 4 hours, or an extremely slow oven for about 6 hours. The dry rub becomes a barbecue sauce of sorts. The meat can be further browned under the grill (broiler), but I find I prefer it without.

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Almost Christmas: très serious fruit cake

This year, I have tried out many Christmas fruit cakes. While there are variations in the mix of dried fruit (or, indeed , fruit mince!), type of alcohol, or the exact way to mix the batter, the cake that comes out of the oven share important characteristics of a dark fruit cake, ripe with tradition and dried citrus peel.

What happens when a French chef puts his spin on a fruit cake? Will it have unexpected quirks, as though you were served baguette instead of scones for Devonshire tea?

I had one answer to this question when I made Philippe Rochat’s recipe for Serious Fruit Cake, reproduced on the now-dormant fxcuisine. (The site is still well worth a visit and still sets the benchmark for memorable and often unusual food adventures. For this cake, FX used one of the most expensive brands of rum in the world – yikes!) According to FX, this recipe was designed by Swiss chef Philippe Rochat as food to be taken on an expedition by his friend and adventurer Mike Horn.

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