Its all about the marinade

As soon as the sun starts to shine and the temperatures rise, I start thinking about Aperol Spritz for aperitif and early evening barbecues… especially this year after we seem to have had such a long and wet winter! I have always had a proper BBQ with British lump wood charcoal – never briquettes, as it imparts a certain depth of flavour to the food, however, I have succumbed to the convenience of a gas BBQ which makes its quick to get going and there’s no reason we can’t cook most of our meals outside….apart from relying on the classic British weather!

What we put on our grill now has changed over the years… I remember when to most people barbecues consisted of sausages, frozen burgers and flabby white buns. However, this was far removed from what we had at home, and the Asian street food I grew up with such as satay and barbecued chilli squid. In Singapore we had a large cast iron barbecue which my father had bought when they lived in Manila in the late 60’s. This simply designed cast iron bowl with a removable grill was designed like the Weber of today and I think finally died a death when we moved back to the UK in 1984.

My mother never put anything on the grill without having marinated it first for at least a couple of hours – anything from middle eastern/Indian spicing through to hoisin & ginger or the Mediterranean flavours of rosemary & garlic. A good marinade not only imparts flavour into the meat of fish, but it can tenderise it, protect it and keep it moist during cooking. The marinade should complement the meat, fish or vegetables so it can enhance the natural flavour as opposed to drowning it. A favourite simple recipe was soy sauce, grated ginger, honey and a little vegetable oil – perfect for chicken wings or thighs.

This weekend I made a Thai style marinade which I used with boneless chicken thighs. I made extra to save time during the week and kept the other half in the fridge.

Blitz 2 stalks of lemongrass with 6 kaffir lime leaves, 2 cm chunk of galangal, 6 green chillies (medium heat), 3 garlic cloves, 1 small piece of fresh turmeric, 1 Tbs coconut oil, 1 Tbs palm sugar, 3 Tbs fish sauce and juice of a whole lime.

Marinate the chicken thighs (pack of 12) in half of this for about 3 hours in the fridge and then cookthem on a hot barbecue. The sweet, sour, salty marinade with a hint of chilli was balanced and enhanced by being grilled, and served with a crunchy salad made with baby cos lettuce, shredded celery, cucumber and spring onions dressed with 1 Tbs fish sauce, 1 tsp palm sugar, 1 lime (juiced) and toasted crushed peanuts. Basic ingredients, simply prepared  but oh so delicious. The remainder of the marinade went into a jar and will be used on a salmon fillet which I will bake in the oven for a quick and easy supper one night this week.

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