Garlic – A King Among Herbs

By Habeeb Salloum

There are those who believe that garlic is divine, its flavour a must in a variety of dishes while there are others who have a fanatical aversion to it, to the point of even detesting its very name.  To admirers who adore the pungent taste of garlic, it is the king of seasonings. However, those who have a deep dislike for this bulb often quote an old proverb, which says, ‘garlic makes men wink and drink and stink’.

An all-round flavouring and traditional natural medical herb, garlic was one of mankind’s earliest foods – believed to have been first cultivated in the Euphrates and Nile Valleys more than 5,000 years ago. 

The inhabitants of Asia and the countries surrounding the Mediterranean from which almost all known civilizations have sprung, have used garlic extensively in their cooking since the dawn of recorded history for both its gourmet and health benefits. Even today, China, India, South Korea, Egypt and Russia remain the largest garlic producing countries in the world while China, India, South Korea, Indonesia and Bangladesh rank at the top in its consumption. 

Yet, despite all its medicinal qualities, the true kingdom of garlic is the kitchen where, as a tasty aromatic condiment it reigns supreme by crowning dishes with flavour and taste.  To the peoples of the Mediterranean basin, most dishes cooked without garlic are considered not worthy to be eaten. 

The innumerable enhancing qualities of this near magic vegetable-herb work miracles in the preparation of food, adding an unsurpassed taste to any dish.

If you wish to enjoy a good and hearty one-dish soup, this Garlic Soup is the one. Moderately spicy with a strong garlic and tomato flavour, it is a soup that you want to try again and again.

Garlic cloves shed their skin easily if they are tapped before peeling or soaked overnight in cold water.

Garlic Soup | Serves 8 to 10

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
2 medium green bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 small hot pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 cups stewed tomatoes, pureed
4 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
7 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
2 eggs, beaten

Heat oil in a saucepan, then sauté onion, garlic, and both bell and hot peppers over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes, cilantro and water, then bring to boil. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients, except eggs then bring to boil.  Re-cover then cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat then stir in eggs and serve immediately.