Garlic- The Love of My Life! I am pretty sure that if there are such demons as ‘vampires’ out there in this world, they would run a mile from me. I have always, for as long as I can remember, just LOVED garlic. I just adore the smell of it on my fingers when I chop it, the fragrance it omits when it’s being fried and the essence that comes from the oven when it is roasted. Yeah, some people love garlic but hate its smell but this ‘stinking rose’ has a gorgeous fragrance in my book. I would read a recipe and when the ingredients list says ‘1 clove of garlic’, nine times out of ten I just think, “Puh, you wimp”!!! One clove equals two or maybe even three cloves in my translation. Load ‘em up!
To me, it’s just as important as salt and pepper and it is a staple for pretty much every dish I create. It adds its own natural, saltiness to food and it is a great old pal when it comes to aiding the management of blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Yes, my name is Monica and I am a garlicholic.
Anyway, onto the story of my recipe! So I was feeling slightly delicate one Saturday afternoon which was due to a relatively heavy night celebrating my friend’s birthday when, it happened… The Hangover Munchies. However, these were not the kind that made me want to eat anything deep-fried and wrapped in bacon, but it was the type that encouraged a craving for a hearty, flavourful and cooked-with-love class of dish. Right away I knew what I wanted and what had to be the heroes of my next creation; Garlic and fresh herbs!! Oh and maybe chicken too. And I want penne pasta. Oh and asparagus. Ok, to the supermarket before I add something stupid in there.
So I returned with all my ingredients and over a few glasses of Italian vino, I whipped up this dish. And it was amazing!! I finished my meal with a very happy little tummy and I was so satisfied that I couldn’t wait to cook it for my loved ones the next time I’m in the mood for some garlic loving!
If you adore garlic, try this!! It really is beautiful. Enjoy.
Prep and cooking time: 1hr 10 mins
Music I listened to: I actually cooked while watching ‘(500) Days of Summer’.
Wine I drank: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
- 4 garlic bulbs
- 1 small baking potato
- 300ml olive oil (the higher the quality the better)
- 2 handfuls fresh basil
- 1 handful fresh parsley
- 2 organic chicken breasts
- 7oz/200g penne pasta
- 175g asparagus
- 25g/1oz grated parmesan
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Place the garlic bulbs, unpeeled, in a shallow roasting tin and drizzle 200ml of the olive oil over them. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. The smell will be amazing after about 20 minutes! Remove and let cool but be sure to keep the infused olive oil that is left on the roasting tray. You will be using this for the pesto!
As the garlic is roasting, rinse the potato, keep the skin on and bring to the boil in a heavy saucepan with salted water. Reduce the heat and let simmer until just ever so slightly undercooked. About 11 minutes. Drain and let cool. Remove the skin.
Now the chicken! Wash the breasts and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
Once the garlic has cooled, coarsely chop the herbs and potato, than transfer to a mortar. Squeeze out each clove of the cooling garlic into a bowl to produce a squishy, sticky, gorgeous purée. Transfer this to the mortar and add the reserved garlic infused olive oil. Add some seasoning and grind with the pestle.
Gradually add the remaining 100ml olive oil as you are grinding. You don’t have to use all the olive oil if you would rather the pesto be less oily. Keep grinding until all the potato has broken down and the pesto reaches a course, spreading consistency.
Bring a large, heavy saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente (firm to bite), which is about 8-10 minutes. Drain the pasta and place in a large bowl.
While the pasta is boiling, get your chicken ready. Add some olive oil to a heavy bottomed frying pan and bring to a medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts and then turn down the heat to medium. Cook for 5 minutes on one side then turn over and fry for 6 minutes
Remove the chicken breasts from the pan and place on a chopping board to rest for a few minutes.
Cut the bottom ends off the fresh asparagus. Discard then chop the asparagus in half and place in a pan of boiling water. Blanch the asparagus for 1-2 minutes and remove from the water.
Now bring your attention back to the chicken and slice the beautiful chicken lengthways.
Add the chicken, roasted garlic pesto, asparagus and parmesan to the bowl of pasta and toss all the ingredients together. Season to taste.