Marinating food is a brilliant way to add extra flavour as well as tenderizing tougher cuts of meat before cooking. A marinade can be simple as a drizzle of oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice or more flavour-packed with yogurt, vinegar, fresh and dried herbs, spices and chillies.
In general all marinades have an acidic element – usually citrus juice, vinegar or natural yogurt - to tenderize, along with oil to keep the food moist during cooking. Once you have those basics you can experiment however you like with the extras!
Here are four basic marinades to try along with some top tips for the marinating process plus a recipe for a delicious and tangy marinated salmon salad - ideal for a light summer starter or snack.
Lemon, garlic and herb (suits pork, lamb, chicken, fish or vegetables)
Mix 6 tbsp olive oil with the juice of 1 large lemon and 1-2 crushed garlic cloves and 1 tbsp freshly chopped herb of your choice –oregano, basil, mint or thyme. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Shallot and red wine vinegar (suits beef, pork and lamb)
Mix 2 tbsp olive oil with 3 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 crushed garlic clove, 2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper.
Oriental soy and sesame (suits pork, chicken, duck or fish)
Mix 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar with 3 tbsp dark soy sauce, 1 tbsp sesame oil, 2 tbsp runny honey, 2 tsp freshly grated root ginger, 2 crushed garlic cloves and 1/2 tsp five-spice powder. Add 1/2 finely chopped red chilli for a spicier flavour.
Spiced yogurt (suits beef, lamb, chicken, pork and vegetables)
Mix 225g natural yogurt with 2 crushed garlic cloves, 2 tsp freshly grated root ginger, juice of 1 small lemon, 1 tsp each ground cumin, ground coriander, mild chilli powder and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
TIPS FOR MARINATING
- Use a non-metallic dish for marinating foods and cover with a lid or cling film. Alternatively place in a sealable freezer bag. Turn the food in the marinade to coat completely.
- Leave in a cool place if marinating for a short time (up to 1 hour). Marinate foods in the fridge for any longer than 1 hour.
- Fish and vegetables only need 1-2 hours marinating time. For poultry around 2-3 hours will give the best flavour without affecting the texture of the flesh. Marinate meat for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Allow chilled marinated food to come back to room temperature before cooking.
- Slash chicken, fish and vegetables (such as aubergines) before adding to the marinade as this will help impart more flavour and speed up the marinating process.
- Drain off the excess marinade used for meat, fish or poultry before cooking and discard.
Salmon Ceviche Salad
In this classic South American dish the citrus marinade gently ‘cooks’ the raw fish, giving it a slightly opaque appearance and firming up the flesh as well as adding lots of flavour. It’s essential to use very fresh fish.
Prep: 20 mins, plus 2 hours marinating
Serves 4 servings (as a starter)
- 260g fresh salmon fillet, skinned
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced into rings
- 1 tsp fine salt
- juice of 2 lemons, plus extra wedges, to serve
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
- 1/2 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1 avocado, halved, stone removed and chopped
- salad leaves, sliced cherry tomatoes and tortilla chips, to serve
1 Cut the salmon into 1cm cubes and place in a shallow no metallic dish with the onion rings. Sprinkle over the salt and leave for 5 mins.
2 Add the lemon juice and oil and turn to coat. Cover and place in the fridge for about 2 hours, turning once or twice until the salmon is opaque.
3 Add the coriander, avocado and chilli and turn gently to mix, taking care not to break up the fish cubes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
4 Serve the marinated salmon salad piled on salad leaves and sliced cherry tomatoes. Spoon over some of the remaining marinade. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve with tortilla chips.