By Alan Lugton, Cookery Manager
Marinades are the secret weapon of any good cook and the saviour of plain and boring foods. With a good marinade you can transform a dull meal into a symphony of flavour that will leave your guests begging for the recipe. Moreover it will only add a few more pennies to your dish.
Marinades have been around for thousands of years, developed out of a necessity to tenderise tough meat and add flavour. Over the years they have transformed into sophisticated blends of ingredients from around the world that will stimulate and tantilise your taste buds.
Marinades can be wet or dry and can be made up of any ingredient available to you – though depending on what you choose to marinate some ingredients are better suited than others. For example – you don’t want too many overpowering flavours if you are cooking fish.
Many marinades will incorporate an acidic base liquid to help tenderise meats or tough vegetables, usually lemon juice or vinegar, but you can also use natural yoghurt or wine for more subtle flavours. When marinating tender foods like fish or vegetables limit the exposure to 30 minutes to 1 hour as the acids will ruin the integrity of its flesh. White meat can last several hours and red meat will be fine left overnight.
Adding the flavour
This is where you can get really creative and make that secret recipe that people will do anything for, but only your descendants to whom you bequeath it will ever know. Flavour combination can be tricky to get right as you have so many variables of ingredients and quantities. Though you will rarely produce anything unappetising by throwing random ingredients into the mix, you can get off to a head start by understanding what flavours work well together. The Flavour Thesaurus looks at this in detail and is an ideal companion for the master marinader. However if you are not ready to make the leap and want some free resources have a look at Barts periodic table of spices for starters and try a few combinations of your own. You can add a further dimension to your marindade if you are prepared to work with your ingredients a little. Toasted spices really bring out the aromatic flavours, where as slow roasting garlic will give a milder more caramel flavour to your dish.
Here are some great versatile and flavoursome recipes to try. Remember it doesnt have to be complicated. Experiment with what you have in your cupboard. As a rule of thumb use lighter more delicate flavours for fish and chicken and stronger flavours for richer meat and soya / tofu dishes.