Written by: Cally Worden
It’s BBQ season again. Time to break out the charcoal or fire up the gas burner and get grilling. If your standard BBQ fare is starting to feel a little overdone, then why not try one a fresh homemade marinade to bring back the buzz to your al fresco dining?
The trick to a good BBQ is sealing the flavour and the moisture into your meat or fish. Marinades do just that – smother your food in the marinade for at least 30 minutes before cooking and chill if at all possible. Even better is to seal the meat or fish into an airtight container to keep those flavours close.
There are 4 key elements to any decent marinade:
1. Oil (or other Fat) – oils and fats provide a shiny coat for your meat or fish that help seal in the moisture and flavour, providing that delicious crispy grill texture. They also become infused with, and spread the flavours they are blended with, ensuring the flavours reach all parts of the food
2. Acid – in a marinade this typically takes the form of vinegar or citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange). Acids help to tenderise the meat or fish. In terms of volumes, aim for a ratio of two parts oil, to one part acid
3. Salt or Sweet – seasoning is key to bringing out all the flavours – from the meat and fish, and from the aromatics that you add into the mix. Salt and sugar are the obvious things to add, but think creative here and your options open up massively – try soy sauce, mustards, fruit juice, honey, fish sauce, syrup, Worcester sauce, and so on
4. Aromatics – fresh or dried herbs, garlic, onion, scallions, shallots, chillies, ginger, spices – these and any other flavourings you can imagine bring depth to the flavour of your marinade, and can transform a simple meal into something very special indeed
The different number of ways you can blend these 4 elements together offer an endless range of possibilities. The only limit is your imagination, so start experimenting today to find combinations that work for you. If you’re unsure of where to begin, here is a basic recipe to get you started.
Something to Get you Started
With a few variations, the following simple blend of ingredients whisked together will provide you with the base sauce to which you can add a range of different seasonings according to your taste:
- 120ml Olive Oil
- 60ml Cider Vinegar – vary the type of vinegar according to the seasoning desired – see below
- Juice of 1 medium lemon
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp coarse ground black pepper
This works well on its own as a basic marinade, but you can also spice up these ingredients in the following ways:
For Asian-style marinade – Use Rice Vinegar, and replace the salt and pepper with 2 tablespoons of a light soy sauce. Add 25g chopped spring onions, and 1/2 teaspoon of Chinese 5-spice powder
For a Mediterranean marinade – Use Balsamic Vinegar. Add 25g of chopped mixed herbs – oregano, parsley and thyme work well. For a final flourish add a splash of Worcestershire Sauce
For a Tex-Mex marinade – Stick with the Cider Vinegar, but replace the lemon juice with the juice and zest from 1 lime. Add 15g chopped coriander, along with 2 teaspoons of cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon of a hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)