Ken and Libby Morgan live on the high slopes of Mount Canobolas just out of Orange. Their block is steep and surrounded by forest and scrub. It also offers a panoramic view of the Nashdale valley which spreads out before the house like a patchworked apron of vineyards, orchards, farmland and waterways. The Morgans have lived here for just over 15 years and began growing organic garlic on a commercial scale for the past four.
With its terraced rows of olive trees, vegetable gardens, stone pizza oven and outhouses (all built by Ken), cyprus pines and banks of roses and lavender; visiting the Morgans is like stepping straight into Liguria or possibly Tuscany. Libby, with a background in horticulture, has a simple approach to her gardening, "I do it to grow fresh food for our kids and friends. The garlic seemed particularly suited to our soil and climate and so I just kept growing more!" Now they have nearly an acre of organic garlic plants and will add to that next year.
I left this beautiful place last week inspired to go straight home and get cracking on my own garden, but the armful of fresh garlic Libby sent me away with proved too distracting. Instead we preserved most of the garlic in a confit and used the rest in a roast dish of chicken, garlic and tarragon (both recipes below).
Roast chicken pieces with tarragon and garlic
This is one of Libby and Ken's favourites and looks set to become a staple in this house too. It comes from Italian chef Stefano Manfredi, is easy to throw together and acts as a perfect showcase for the Morgans' beautiful garlic. The original recipe called for chicken thighs with bone in and skin on but I used a whole jointed Gilgandra chicken from our local butchers M&Js Butchery (who also stock Morganics garlic - snap!). It would be beautiful with a green salad and some nice crusty bread.
1 free-range chicken, jointed
1/2 cup french tarragon leaves, picked from stems
6 tbspn extra virgin olive oi
20 large garlic cloves, peeled
6-8 stems french tarragon
salt and pepper
1 cup chicken stock
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Force a finger between each chicken piece's skin and flesh to make a pocket don't remove skin entirely. Push a few tarragon leaves into opening and spread over the flesh. Rub each with olive oil and place in an oven dish. Surround chicken with garlic cloves and sprinkle remaining olive oil on the garlic. Season with salt and pepper and roast for 15 minutes. Add tarragon stems and chicken stock to roasting chicken. Roast for 10 minutes more then remove and serve.
This recipe comes from a great friend and great cook, who also happens to be known as Cook, or rather Ms Elise Cook. She once worked in a cafe that would confit all of its garlic and use the soft, sweet cloves in all of their aiolis, salad dressings and pasta dishes. The method is simple and the results AMAZING. Use the confit garlic wherever fresh cloves are required - they add a richer almost caramelised garlic flavour to pretty much everything.
2 bulbs of garlic
Peel the garlic cloves and place in the base of a small, heavy-based saucepan. Cover with olive oil, so the oil is about 1/2 a centimetre over the garlic. Place this in a very low oven (120 fan forced) for 2 hours or until the cloves are soft and a rich golden colour. You can cook these on the stove-top but the garlic will smell quite strong as it cooks! In this case, begin to cook the garlic on medium heat and just when small bubbles start to appear in the saucepan reduce the heat to its lowest setting and cook for about 35 minutes. Store, still covered by the oil, in a sterilised jar for up to a month.
From December through to April, Morganics garlic can be purchased at the Orange Farmers Market (on the second Saturday of the month), M&J's Butchers, Totally Local, Sydney's weekly Everleigh markets, Northside and French's Forest markets.