“G” Is For Garlic by Nazia Hussain

***image2***Hi there, it’s Naz here again. One of my favourite spices is garlic. I use it in practically everything that I make that is savoury. Garlic is a truly international spice as it is used by all nationalities in diverse types of cooking. Being of Indian extraction I was brought up with garlic and now, as an avid cook, it is one of my staples in the cupboard. When I lived in the UK, I would use it to marinate a leg of lamb, in pasta sauces, Indian curries and just plain steamed vegetables. However, since moving to Dubai, I have noticed that Middle Eastern food uses a lot of garlic, be it salads, stews, or grilled meats.

’G’ is for Garlic


Picture taken from http://www.garlic.mistral.co.uk/

Garlic is known as allium sativum and is a member of the Alliaceae family and therefore closely related to onions and lilies. The word ‘garlic’ comes from the native Germanic word garlaeac, which translates into ‘spear leek’. ‘Gar’ means spear and refers to it’s pointed leaves. ‘lic’ translates into leek. Cultivated garlic grows from bulbs and not seeds, and when fully grown has segments which are known as ‘cloves’. The outer bulb has a skin which holds together all the cloves. These individual cloves can be used for planting and growing new bulbs in the late winter or early spring.

The origin of garlic is not exactly known although many say that it was first cultivated in Central Asia. Others say it originates from Siberia and then spread throughout the Mediterranean countries. One thing is for sure, however, that it is used worldwide and is now cultivated in various countries around the world. Garlic has been used throughout time by all cultures. It is said that the Egyptians who built the pyramids would consume garlic as did the Greek and Roman soldiers and sailors and other members of the rural community. The African peasantry was also known for using garlic in their cooking.

There are basically two ways of using garlic in food; raw or cooked. The pungency of the spice vanishes upon cooking so many cultures prefer to use it cooked or fried rather than raw. In the West, the Austrians use it raw in their salads with vinegar and oil. A lot of the southern Europeans use raw garlic in the Mediterranean sauces; the Greeks make a paste out of cooked potatoes and raw garlic known as skordalia and the Turkish prepare a soup using plain yoghurt, cucumber, peppermint leaves and garlic called cacik. Tzatsiki and hummus are also prepared using raw garlic. In Vietnam, especially in Northern Vietnam, raw garlic is grated and sprinkled in soups and added to soups. However, many more people use garlic in its cooked form.

I use it as a base for all my Indian cooking with onions and sometimes ginger. By the time I have added all the other spices in with the onions and garlic the pungent aroma will have disappeared. The Chinese and Indonesians use it as a base for their stir fries although the cooking time is a lot less than mine, so the taste and smell of the garlic is more evident. In Thai cooking the preference is to use garlic as part of a soup as is the case in Cambodia. Garlic is used extensively in Central America. The Mexicans use it for mole and salsa.


Garlic properties

Garlic is well known for its medicinal value. It has many active constituents including alliin, allicin and alliinase as well many sulphur compounds. Allicin is produced when alliin and alliinase are combined and this happens when a garlic clove is crushed or bitten into. When Allicin and the sulphur compounds are combined they provide garlic with it’s potency as a medicine. In particular, the two combined constituents act as an antibiotic, anti viral and fungicide.

The cloves are claimed to be helpful with those suffering from chest problems and digestion problems as well as fungal infections like thrush. Many claim that garlic is also beneficial in the reduction of cholesterol levels, treatment of high blood pressure and hypertension. Garlic is also allegedly good for regulating blood sugar levels and many say, (although no clinical trials have indicated either way), that it can help in the prevention of certain types of cancer. It is also known for being a good immune stimulant.


This month’s recipe is another simple one; Bean Sprouts stir fried in garlic which can be eaten on it’s own or as an accompaniment. I hope you enjoy making it.

Bean Sprout Stir Fry with Garlic Recipe Beta Flikr: http://www.flickr.com/


1 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped finely 2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped finely

500g bean sprouts

2 carrots, diced into small cubes 1 red pepper, sliced

1 yellow pepper, sliced

Broccoli florets cut into small pieces salt and pepper to taste

A touch of soya sauce


1. Lightly sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil.

2. Add the carrots and broccoli to the pan and toss

3. Cover for 5 mins and simmer gently.

4. Add the remaining ingredients including the soya sauce and simmer for a further 5 mins or until the vegetables are cooked to ‘al dente’.

5. Serve on a plate and enjoy.

Back next month with more from Naz! If you have any suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me on noshbynaz@yahoo.co.uk . Feedback is always encouraged.

Bye for now.


by Nazia Hussain
A business consultant by day and a passionate cook by night. Nazia is currently away from her home, London, seeking new international recipes for her column!