Tuesday 19 July 2011

A Mean Marinade

Last week I was cooking Tandoori Chicken, because it was the best recipe for marinated barbecued chicken, that I could think of.  This year the supermarket have gone mad for marinades. Supermarkets are permanently on the lookout for new trends. In this way they can spot whatever it is that you like to do, be it barbecuing, growing your own vegetables, making jam or baking cupcakes. Then they repackage it and sell it back to you, at a profit. I hate it.  I don't know why but it almost feels like an invasion of my mind.

Anyway, as summer came with unsubstantiated promises of al fresco eating and barbecues, so the shelves filled up with every marinade ever thought of, from every country in the world. From Argentina to Japan, Morocco to India. Every now and then, I was tempted by some exotic sounding combination, no-doubt lured by some enticing packaging. I momentarily forgot that I could just have easily knocked up whatever marinade it was myself, in about 10 minutes, from ingredients I probably had at home already. Anyway, they were all, without fail, revolting. Too much sugar, too much vinegar, unsubtle flavours, herbs that had become pickled and lost all freshness and zest. So, just to remind myself never to do that again, I have written out a few of my favourite recipes. 

The first is Chimichurri which is a sauce and also used as a marinade for grilled meat. It is originally from Argentina and Uruguay, but is also used in countries as far north as Nicaragua and Mexico.  It is vibrant and fresh with the Paprika adding a smoky note and it works excellently with Steak on the barbecue.  You can use Picante or Dulce Paprika depending on your taste.  I prefer the extra chilli kick.  There is no need to marinade your meat for any length of time.  Just coat your steaks and wait for 10 minutes or so.  The extra marinade can be used as a sauce on the side.

Chermoula is the North African variant for fish. It is almost identical to Chimichurri, but replaces vinegar for lemon juice which is more subtle with delicate fish flavours.  Once again there is no need to marinade for more than 10 minutes.  Just coat and cook.  Never leave fish or meat in a marinade containing salt for any length of time as it will just draw out the juices.

In my opinion, lamb needs nothing more than a combination of olive oil and lemon juice with lots of freshly ground black pepper, loads of Rosemary and garlic.  In this case the meat should be left in the marinade over-night to allow the flavours to penetrate and the lemon acts to tenderise the meat which makes it all the more delicious.  Season with salt just before cooking. 

Finally everyone need a good rib recipe for the barbie season.  I have really battled over the years to find a recipe that I liked.  I found the Chinese one's were often too heavy on the Hoi Sin and the Five Spice (although I do recommend my Char-Siu Pork ) and the American versions, laden with Tomato Ketchup and Malt Vinegar.  So I was delighted to find a fantastic Japanese alternative.  Although this recipe does contain some honey it balances beautifully with the other ingredients. 

A Japanese Barbecue is called a Yakiniku and the meat would be further dipped in a Tare Sauce before eating. Personally I use this marinade to cook ribs which I slow-bake first submerged in marinade for a few hours until the meat is beginning to flake.  I then pour off the excess sauce and reduce it in a pan until you have a sticky, delicious  sauce.  Let the ribs cool before cutting up, so that they don't fall to pieces.  Finally I briefly put them on the barbie until hot and smoky and serve with extra sauce.  You don't have to do this.  It is still delicious served straight from the oven.  Just slow-cook them for even longer.

All of these recipes are dead simple, so there is no need to ever succumb to a marinade in jar ever again.  And with the money that you save you can invest in better meat.  Remember, please try to buy free-range when you can and Organic if possible.  This really is something that is worth the extra money.

Chimichurri Sauce

1 large bunch coriander

1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves
6 cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika, sweet or spicy
1 fresh red chilli, roughly chopped or 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 small bunch fresh Oregano
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1  cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Whiz up all ingredients in a liquidiser or with a hand-held blender until smooth.  Season to taste with salt.

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
3/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon sweet or spicy Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 large bunch of Coriander leaves
1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon Ras el Hanout (optional)
1-2 tsp salt or to taste

Whiz up all ingredients in a liquidiser or with a hand-held blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

Harumi's Barbecue Sauce
from Everyday Harumi: Simple Japanese Food for Family and Friends
by Harumi Kurihara

(Personally I whiz this all up with a hand blender which means you don't have to grate anything.)

100ml red wine
2 tbsp honey
70g caster sugar
200ml soy sauce
1 tbsp miso (any type)
60g apple, grated
60g onion, grated
2 tablespoons garlic, grated
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp ground toasted sesame seeds

Put the red wine in a small pan and bring to a boil. Simmer it over low heat for 1 minute to let the alcohol evaporate. Add the honey, sugar, coarse sugar, soy sauce and miso, mix and boil again. When the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat off. When the mixture has cooled down, add the grated apple, onion, garlic and ginger, sesame oil and ground sesame seeds, and mix together.  The flavour will improve if left overnight.  It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.


  1. wow those ribs look delicious, I love a good marinade.

  2. Making marinades with fresh ingredientsto achieve lip-smacking results is so worth the effort.I'll be using your Chimichurri recipe with my steak at the weekend so thanks for the tip ;-)


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