I’ve been reading about black garlic for the last few years. I’ve even tried a product made with black garlic – my friend Dave made some striking black garlic cheese which I used in a delicious seasonal butternut squash and cheese bake.
But until this week, I’d never actually tried the stuff as it comes, nor used it in cooking.
If you haven’t come across black garlic, you might be wondering what it is? Well, it’s not a new or different variety of the plant we love and know. Simply put, it’s very caramelised garlic. Sold in whole bulbs, it can be (peeled and) eaten as is or used as an ingredient in cooking.
The process to make it is occasionally (and erroneously) referred to as fermentation – but there is no microbial action involved. Black garlic is made by gently heating whole bulbs of ordinary garlic for a long period of time, until the cloves inside caramelise. Just like roasting garlic brings out a wonderfully mellow sweetness, so too does this process for making black garlic. The key differences are that black garlic remains (marginally) firmer than roasted garlic, and there is a hint of acidity to the flavour of black garlic that is rather like molasses or reduced balsamic vinegar. In both cases, the fiery nature of raw garlic is completely tamed.
Apparently the idea originated in East Asia – possibly Korea – where black garlic is commonly marketed as a health product. It started gaining popularity in the USA less than a decade ago and quickly crossed to the UK, initially as an import. It is now produced here from British-grown garlic by a number of brands. The one I’m using below has just rebranded to Balsajo, so packaging may look a little different if you seek it out in the supermarket. Mine is from Sainsbury’s.
The packet contains just one bulb (and mine was a fairly small one) so I wanted to use it in a way that would show off the flavour. A simple pasta dish seemed just the ticket, with mushrooms to balance the sweetness and cream to make it more decadent.
Black Garlic, Mushroom & Cream Penne Pasta
Serves 2 (could easily stretch to 3)
Penne pasta, amounts as per your usual portions – we use 50 grams dried per person
1 bulb black garlic
Small splash of vegetable oil
500 grams cup mushrooms, halved and sliced
150 ml double cream
Salt and pepper to taste
- Put the pasta on to boil.
- In a large frying pan, fry mushrooms in a small splash of vegetable oil until they have released their juices. Continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated / been reabsorbed by the mushrooms and they take on a little golden colour.
- While the mushrooms are frying, gently peel and slice the black garlic and set aside.
- When the pasta is nearly cooked, reduce the heat under the frying pan, stir in the double cream and add the black garlic.
- Stir to distribute the black garlic evenly through the mushrooms and give the cream and black garlic time to heat through.
- Season to taste.
- Drain the pasta thoroughly.
- Either combine pasta with the sauce in the pan or divide pasta into bowls and spoon sauce over the top.
I love the sweet flavour of black garlic! It’s a lot like sweet and sticky caramelised onion, but with that familiar garlic flavour, mellowed as it is when roasted. Utterly gorgeous and well worth seeking out!
For more inspiration on how to use black garlic, check out:
- Urvashi’s Black garlic, carrot and thyme oat cookie
- Gary’s black garlic and coconut chicken curry
- Jen’s thyme, black garlic and tomato flatbreads
- Michelle’s mushroom and black garlic pate
Kavey Eats received a sample of black garlic, plus a small contribution towards ingredients, from Sainsbury’s. Current price per packet is £1.50.