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Marinades and spice rubs pack your food with flavour without the gut-busting kilojoules of heavy sauces.
Tyler Florence, the author of Tyler’s Ultimate: Brilliant Simple Food to Make Any Time says, “Make sure you give the marinades enough time to work: delicate fish like sole need no more than 30 minutes, but a hearty cut of beef or lamb benefits from an overnight plunge.” The best marinades consist of three parts:
“Acid breaks down the muscle fibres and gives you a tender, moister piece of meat,” says Florence. Expand your horizons with different vinegars: wine, sherry or apple cider. Citrus juice, wine and yoghurt also do the trick.
2. Role players
These flavour builders add depth and character to a marinade. Olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, fresh ginger, smoked jalapeno, soy sauce and others give your meat and fish an identity.
Fresh or dried herbs impart subtle notes, while assertive spices like cayenne and curry powder can shape an entire flavour profile. But beware of salt in your marinades. “Early salting creates osmosis, which pulls important moisture from your food,” says Florence
Here are our favourite soaking and rubbing marinades to flavour your pick of protein:
THE BOOZE HOUND
Best for: Big cuts of lamb or beef
2 cups heavy red wine (Cabernet or Merlot) , 3 cloves garlic, crushed, 2 tbsp chopped fresh, thyme or rosemary, 1 tsp black pepper
Best for: Pork, chicken or beef
1/2 cup balsamic, vinegar, 2 tbsp Dijon mustard, 2 cloves garlic, chopped 2 tbsp chopped fresh, rosemary
THE CATCH OF THE DAY
Best for: Fish
1 cup olive oil Juice of 1 lemon 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme 2 cloves garlic, chopped
THE EASTERN EXPRESS
Best for: Salmon, tuna or pork
1/2 cup rice-wine vinegar 1 cup low-sodium soy sauce 2 tbsp fresh grated ginger 2 tbsp brown sugar
THE MEXICAN SLATHER
Best for: Steak
Juice of 2 limes, 2 cloves garlic, chopped, 2 tbsp pureed, smoked jalapeno, chilli peppers, 1/2 cup chopped, coriander
Best for: Lamb
2 cups plain yoghurt, 1/2 cup fresh mint, 1 tsp cumin, 4 cloves garlic, chopped
THE HEART OF DARKNESS
Best for: Fish and poultry
1 tsp each cumin, paprika, cayenne, oregano, black pepper and salt
(This is not a marinade, since there’s no acid, but a blackening rub is a healthy way to liven up white meat.)