Finally! This is one post I’ve been planning for ages but never quite gotten around to putting together! Until now!
I had a bit of a fucking last two weeks but I’ve finally found my buzz back and now I have returned to my easy-breezy self. Okay maybe not but my emotional climate shall not be topic on today’s agenda.
Instead let’s start with some good old confessions:
Confession #1 – I marinade everything
Confession #2 – I am not afraid to nutty experiments when it comes to marinades
Confession #3 – I
am feel like Harry Potter in potion class when I create new marinades
Confession #4 – I LOVE IT!
Maybe not all of these were perfect confession material but who cares. But let’s go back to the marinades.
At the moment with the BBQ season full on whenever I enter the supermarket I see special set up promo areas touting for super special BBQ sauces, pre-mixed marinades, pre-packed, pre-marinated veggies and ready to grill pre-buttered baguette.
When you enter the meat section the display is bursting with pre-marinated chicken, beef and lamb. I admit that it does look delicious but whenever I’ve eaten some of the pre-marinated meat in the past years I had a troubled stomach for days. Needless to say that I am not a fan! Especially when making your own, tastebud-personalized marinade is as simple as it can get!
Seriously there is no excuse not to do it as today I am going to fill you in on the secret to create awesome marinades from scratch. Whatever kind of marinade you want to create I’ve experienced that there are a few rules you should stick to and a few guidelines you can interpret as loosely as you prefer.
Okay let’s start.
- lacewing flies (that must be stewed for twenty-one days)
- fluxweed (that needs to be picked at the full moon)
- the powdered horn of a Bicorn
- the shredded skin of a Boomslang
- a bit of the person one desires to change into (most commonly a bit of hair)
Ooops sorry guys, forget that! Wrong class! Seriously just forget it or I have to call Gilderoy Lockhard!
A step by step guide to creating Awesome Marinades
Making marinades 101
The question of kitchen equipment:
- Hand held blender
- Food Processor
This decision is a bit of a question of personal style. Marinades work out whichever of these three you decide to use but in my experience the mortar is the one to prefer. I personally love to use the mortar. I feel like there’s more connection between me and the ingredients. Throwing everything in a food processor is sometimes just too impersonal. Using the mortar is my personal idea of cooking with love!
Also the mortar tickles out the flavors nicely and the marinades get way smoother and creamier. If you don’t care about consistency, are short in time or even a heartless jerk you can just throw everything in a food processor and blend until smooth. No shame about it.
How to build a marinade: Marinade Base + Acid + Spices + Final Touches = Perfect Marinade (we’ll talk details in a minute) Depending on what kinds of ingredients you use – some need a little prep time – you can make your own, personal marinade in less than 10 minutes. Even when you use a mortar!
How to marinade: I personally prefer to give my marinade and my meat in a freezer bag, seal and store in the fridge (for marinading times over 1 h) or on the kitchen counter (for marinading times under 1 h). Marinade for at least 1 hour if you’re short in time but the longer the better. 6-8 hours bring perfect results. If you can prep the night before, overnight should be the prefered choice. You can take out the meat with a barbecue tongs and put directly on the grill and the freezer bag allows to pour the marinade leftovers directly on the meat without getting too messy.
Ingredients for making madinades
1. Marinade Base
To me the base of every good marinade is a combination of oil and either garlic or spring onions.
OIL – The oil is necessary to prevent the meat from burning. Fat is a natural flavor carrier and is thus the body of our marinades.
GARLIC/ ONION – The garlic and spring onion provide a creamy texture and give depth to the marinade. And also I dearly love them and think there is no such thing as too much garlic!
SALT – I also always add salt. This is out of two reasons. Firstly it’s way easier to pestle the garlic with the help of some salt crystals and secondly salt helps developing the taste of other ingredients as herbs and also the sweet components we want to add later.
2. Acid is the key
ACID – is vital to starting the marinading process. Without any acid the meat would just bath in a sauce and the better part would drip off as soon as you took the meat out. Acid breaks the structure of the meat just enough to make all the wonderful flavours soak into the meat and stay there throughout the cooking process. Use any vinegar, citrus juices or even yoghurt or buttermilk if you’re not sensitive to dairy. Dairy in marinades makes the meat deliciously tender.
My favorite acids are: Lemon Juice, Lime Juice and Red Wine Vinegar
Okay guys, basically we have all a marinade needs now. We have oil, garlic/ spring onion and acid. But if we stopped here how boring would that be? Now we’re at the point where things start to get fun. We personalize our marinade! How we do this? With herbs, spices and something sweet.
3. Spice it up
Here comes my favorite part: adding herbs and spices! I recommend to decide whether you want to go heavy on herbs or heavy on spices! Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with adding a little heat to a herb heavy marinade but don’t go overboard with both. It’s a either-or kind of situation!
HERBS – Fresh or dried herbs are again a choice of personal style. I personally love to use fresh herbs. When you start to pestle them you’re instantly rewarded with an amazing smell. But there’s nothing wrong with using dried ones either. For better processability (especially when you work with a mortar) I would recommend to soak any dried herbs in some olive oil for 1-2 hours. If you can’t get your hands on any freah herbs but don’t want to use dried ones either, frozen herbs are a good alternative. Treat them just like the fresh ones. In general any herbs are possible. Think Basil, Curry Leaves, Marjoram, Sage, Parsley…
My favorite herbs are: Thyme, Rosemary and Oregano
SPICES – Spices give life to any dish. I am a fan of hot food and somehow my dishes all end up hot and spicy in any way. But when you think of spices it doesn’t have to be hot. Think of Curcuma, Cumin, Pepper, Bell Pepper Powder…. Also blends are possible like Curry Blends or Tandoori Masala. If you don’t fear a little heat try to work with fresh Chili, Chili Flakes, fresh our ground Ginger or sauces like Sriracha or Sambal.
A note on fresh Chili: Fresh Chili requires a little preparation. The flavors come out best when you roast the chili in the oven until you can just peel off the skin. Be careful and don’t touch your eyes! Or better use gloves. I would also start to add only a little and then work my way up. Especially when you’re not used to very hot food
My favorite spices are: Fresh Chili, Sriracha, Tandoori Masala and Cumin
4. Adding the final touch
I like to attend to the whole taste palette. Salty, acidly, hot and sweet. Of course you set a certain focus on one or two of those tastes but it’s always a good thing to add a little of everything to each marinade. The contradicting flavor even enhances the main flavor you desire. Condiments, fruits or sweeteners work perfect for rounding off your marinade!
CONDIMENTS – Condiments are a wonderful way to add final touches to the marinade, balance out the flavors and bring more depth to the dish. There are no rules and limits about condiments. You can use whatever you want. Think of Worcester Sauce, Soy Sauce, Sweet Soy Sauce, Mustard, relish, jams…
My favorite condiments are: Mustard and Soy Sauce
FRUIT – Fruit? Yes fruit! Fruit is perfect to add a sweet touch and a new note to any marinade. They really nicely balance out herb heavy marinades. You should use very ripe and flavorful fruits to bring out not only the sweet but also the fruit specific notes. Any berries are great but also cherries, peaches, pineapple or plums. Some people swear on juices but I never particularly warmed to that. But who knows. Maybe you will love it! Tomatoes are also great. They bring body, acid and flavor! Treat them like the chili. Bake in the oven and peel off the skin first.
My favorite fruits are: Blueberries, Strawberries, and Tomatoes
SWEETENERS – If you add only non sweet condiments and no fruit you might want to add a little sweetener to get that desired finish. Maple Syrup, Honey, Molasses, Agave Syrup or even plain (Brown) Sugar work wonderful. Just make sure to be a bit cautious and add a little at a time. Nothing worse than a too sweet marinade. It can set off the whole taste! And please do me the favor and don’t use any artificial sweeteners or stevia. It’s just wrong!
My favorite sweeteners are: Molasses and Maple Syrup
Okay let’s get the ball rolling! Get out that equipment, choose your desired ingredients and work out the flavors. You’ll be rewarded with a fantastic BBQ experience and no artificial flavors, flavor enhancers or preservatives make your stomach revolt.
If you just don’t want to go all fancy-schmancy and create your own marinade don’t worry. I have you covered with a few suggestions for a flavorful and laid-back BBQ experience:
Chimichurri Sauce – a sauce that goes great as a (beef) marinade too
Italian Caprese Steak Sandwich – Including a recipe for Basil Marinade
Pimp up your BBQ
Sauces and condiments are also a necessary part of any BBQ. Pimp it up with
one, two all of those:
Okay guys off to work now. Later I’ll get out my mortar and make my favorite marinade of this year. Can you guess which one it is? I’ll give you a little hint: it’s spicy 😉