Ajo Blanco: A Disarming Alternative to TikTok’s Monster Garlic Obsession – Recipe | Australian food and drink
There was a time when garlic made people nervous.
I remember serving a couple in my restaurant at the time who insisted they couldn’t eat anything from the allium family, “mostly garlic” because it was “too much. Hot “.
I had just approached them curled up on their first dish: palms down, thumbs together, as you would on a camping stove on Everest, “extracting negative energy” from what, I assured them, was an egg from free-range hens.
The gentleman of the pair seized the moment to explain, with a fanatic smile and lots of detail, the healing powers of reiki. They “channeled” the energy of the cosmos through its upper chakra and transformed it into “useful forms”.
It seemed contradictory at the time. If they could Iron Man the power of the cosmos through their x-ray hands; surely could they circle the Yang of a clove of garlic?
Lately the Internet has had no such qualms. The opposite, in fact: “Too much garlic is hardly enough.
TikTok loves it, with 40 clove garlic buns and 60 clove soup launched to niche audiences that straddle that delicious border between garlic lover and pimple-pulling porn. As cookbook author and influencer Jake Cohen puts it, “Squeezing roasted garlic is my problem. “It will never be enough,” another video states, using enough finely chopped garlic to power a Bezos rocket-shaped wand far beyond the Kármán range.
There are people who munch on whole cloves with sriracha or preserved in honey, all with millions of views. Some have even gotten into the habit of sticking garlic up their noses against reasonable medical advice.
But as any baby boomer will tell you, monster garlic recipes aren’t new. Deans of the kitchen who don’t need a last name have been raising the bar on this forever – like the allium superpowers pushing us ever closer to the midnight Doomsday Clock snack.
Nigella’s 40-clove chook has them “locked in their skin, turning sweet and caramelized as they bake like salty candy in their sticky wrappers”; not to be outdone, Martha’s has 60 cloves.
Personally, I love garlic topped with chicken recipes, but it can become a social issue if your penchant for fragrant allium exceeds the olfactory limits of your group.
But in the spirit of mutual disarmament, I offer my version of ajo blanco as an alternative. Sometimes called “white gazpacho”, it is traditionally prepared with garlic (only two cloves), bread, almonds, olive oil and a dash of sherry vinegar.
Using the new season Australian garlic, you will find it subtly fragrant, slightly sour, slightly biting and very soothing. Usually garnished with green grapes – with the skin on if you’re an animal – I suggest small pieces of golden kiwi fruit are superior.
200g sourdough bread, crusts removed and cut into cubes
2 cloves garlic, peeled
750 ml almond milk, the bartender’s choice
100 ml of dry vermouth
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of flaked sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
For this recipe I use my Thermomix. I am not sponsored and I have never joined the cult. Once you’ve cleared all the clutter, you’ll find a very superior mixer.
Of course, any blender or food processor will do, but a vertical bar blender works best for liquids. If you want to shed those locking pounds or just want to remove your fitness tracker from your holster, definitely use a mortar and pestle.
To start, I soak the bread in half the almond milk. This will take about five minutes, which gives plenty of time to test the vermouth (on ice with a piece of lemon zest) and crush the garlic with a small press or mortar and pestle.
Add the garlic to the soaking bread and mix into a fine, silky paste. Add the rest of the ingredients and again mix well.
At this point you can go up with the unicorns by passing them through a very fine sieve or just refrigerate until needed. If you need more agency, adjust the salt. Serve to your guests as a statement of intent.
Mark Best is an award-winning chef and cookbook author based in Sydney, Australia, find him on Instagram @markbest