Note: You can click here to see my evolutionary invention to produce awesome toum in 3 minutes. The article below is still worth a read so you gain an understanding of the toum making process.
My brother Fady eats garlic sauce spread on Lebanese bread all on its own. He says that with garlic, you gain your health but loose your friends. The consumption of garlic in Lebanon is, and historically has been in such copious quantities that the Lebanese can hardly claim any vampire of note. Where should I begin to explain what a pivotal role garlic plays in Lebanese cuisine? The relative of the onion has been consumed as a food and a medicine in the Mediterranean since the days of the pharaohs. It has been referred to in the Old Testament (Numbers 11:5) as one of the foods that were consumed in Egypt, alongside with melons, onions, cucumbers and leeks.. It is used in thousands of recipes and never a day goes by when it is not eaten. Mixed with lemon juice and olive oil, it is our most used salad dressing and meat or chicken marinade.
The Lebanese word for garlic is toum, which is also how we refer to the fluffy white garlic sauce that is served in restaurants with roast chicken, chicken shawarma and shish tawook (chicken skewers). Its affinity with chicken is therefore evident, but it also goes beautifully with lamb, beef and goat meat. Making toum is actually easy, but you need a food processor, and lots of patience. Once you make this sauce, you might get addicted, so beware.
Before I get into the recipe, I want to give you a few pointers:
- Always use a neutral oil like canola or vegetable oil, the sauce will taste lighter and the texture will be fluffier than if you use olive oil
- The idea is to create an emulsion with the oil, garlic and lemon juice
- Be patient. It will take around 10 minutes with a food processor to get a finished product. Rushing will cause the sauce to split
- Use good quality fresh garlic and peel it yourself. Don’t buy already peeled garlic since it has been refrigerated
- The Australian market is flooded with Chinese garlic, which is of a lesser quality, so try to avoid it. Use Mexican garlic, or most preferably Australian garlic
- Avoid bulbs with green growth, and choose tight bulbs
- Make sure all your equipment is free of any traces of water, which could make the sauce split
Toum – Lebanese Garlic Sauce Recipe
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup peeled whole garlic cloves (not crushed)
1 heaped tbsp salt
4 cups of neutral oil
, canola or vegetable oil (Edit: Since this recipe was published, I’ve come to understand that seed and commercial vegetable oils are highly inflammatory and largely contribute to heart disease and diabetes. I suggest using oils low in Omega 6 and high in monounsaturated fats. As neutral oils go, a high oleic sunflower such as this one would be a good option.)
- Put salt and garlic cloves in food processor and pulse. Scrape the sides a couple of times and pulse some more, until the garlic is nicely even in chunk size
- Turn on the food processor and in a very very thin stream, add 1/2 cup oil very gradually. Adding too much oil too soon will split the sauce
- Add 2 teaspoons lemon juice, also gradually, allowing them to incorporate properly
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all your ingredients have been used up. Do NOT exceed the oil and lemon juice quantities in each repetition
- After (or during) the 2nd addition of oil, you will notice the emulsion take place. If your sauce doesn’t split, then you’ve done well and added the oil in the required slow manner. You can add any left over lemon juice at the end, but add it slowly as the food processor churns through. If the sauce splits, just stop because it’s ruined. Abort the mission, add an egg white and make aioli instead