I love garlic. I put it in most of my dishes, even when it shouldn’t be in there, and I always add more than prescribed in a recipe. I just love the flavour of it. I also like aioli, but the problem with making it yourself is the garlic. When you use raw garlic, the flavour tends to be a bit too pungent, also it makes your breath smell bad and you taste it for hours after eating it. But when you use roasted garlic, it tends to be too mellow, and roasting the garlic properly takes ages, a hot oven and loads of olive oil, which are three things you don’t want when you are making a light dip for some crudité on a hot summer day.
So when I got a tip from someone to dry-roast unpeeled cloves of garlic for a few minutes in a hot skillet, peel them after frying and smashing them with a bit of salt before adding it to a sauce, I was happy to give it a try. And I was happy that I did so, because I will not make my garlic sauces in any other way than this any more. It takes away the very harsh and pungent taste, but keeps the garlic flavour very well. And because the garlic becomes softer, it is easier to purée as well. I used it mixed with mayonnaise for an aioli, to serve with patatas bravas (Spanish spicy potatoes, although the way I make them is not very authentic), but there are loads of other possibilities. Mix it with yoghurt for a dip for crudité, with crème fraîche to accompany baked potato, with cream cheese for a sandwich/cracker spread, with butter and herbs for herb butter, etc.
Patatas bravas with aioli (serves 2)
500 g small potatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp mayonnaise
2 fat cloves of garlic, unpeeled
pimentón de la vera (smoky Spanish paprika powder, dulce and/or piccante)
Preheat the oven to 210C.
Place the potatoes in a pan, and pour water on top until just covered. Season with salt. Bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes are just soft/barely cooked. Drain and leave to steam for a few minutes in the pan without the lid, to get rid of the water. Pour in an oven tray, drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden and crisp.
Meanwhile make the aioli. Place a skillet on high heat. Put the unpeeled garlic cloves in and roast for a few minutes (it is fine when the peel gets burned, this gives extra flavour). Leave to cool for a bit, then peel and mash with some salt. Add to the mayonnaise. Season with the pimentón to taste.
Serve the aioli either mixed with the potatoes, or as a dip.
Note: for “normal” aioli, omit the pimentón.