“This is my go-to for anything garlic,” says Shane Delia. “I don’t use garlic at home anymore, not like raw garlic, chopped up. You’ve got to smash it, peel it, crush it, wash the board in the sink. It’s a pain in the arse.”
Instead, the chef-owner of popular Melbourne Middle Eastern eateries Maha, Maha East and Maha Bar – amalgamated for the moment under the delivery umbrella MahaGo – uses only toum, a creamy Lebanese garlic paste made with no dairy and just three ingredients.
“I’ll use it in a stir-fry, or if it’s a pasta dish and I want that really nice garlicky flavour, I’ll fold it through at the end,” he says. “If you’re doing roast or grilled chicken, smear some of this on it before cooking, and it’ll become really nice and caramelised. It’s become that staple that I just need to have.”
Toum is nothing if not versatile. It can serve as an ingredient, a condiment, a sauce, a marinade or a straight-up dip.
“It’s something I discovered when I started dating [my wife] Maha. I go to her house and there’s this bowl of it with all the grilled meats on the table, and I see her dad having it, and I thought it was just like mayonnaise,” Delia says. “I put heaps of it on. She was laughing at me. I thought I fucked up, that it wasn’t a condiment. But they’re like no, you’re doing it right. Just take it easy. You’ve just gone too hard too early.”
Toum (Lebanese Garlic Sauce)
Makes: around 650g
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: none
500ml light-flavoured extra-virgin olive oil
60ml lemon juice
Salt, to taste
Peel the garlic and remove any green shoots in the centre. Blitz the garlic and lemon juice in a blender until a paste starts to form.
Slowly add the olive oil until it has a mayonnaise-like consistency. If required, add a little bit of warm tap water to help it emulsify. Once the paste is smooth, season with salt.
Place the paste in an airtight container and pour a layer of oil on top, which will help prevent oxidisation and discolouration. It’ll keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.