Queen of the marinade

I’m often told by my food loving brainiac friends, that there is science behind the art of marinades, but I respectfully disagree to a degree. I believe that it’s about having a sense of the different spice aromas, that leads to one blending, grinding and teasing liquids together, to penetrate the meat we then roast or stew. I’m no technical boffin, so I can only go with my heart, where food is concerned. I don’t measure or plan, but I do peruse the odd recipe for tips.

The above is a photo I took of a Thai spiced lamb that I made with fresh garlic, fresh lemon grass, curry leaves, green chillies and Tom Yum paste from M&S.

We’re not vegetarians and marinates, in my humble opinion, work best with fish, poultry and meat. Don’t get me wrong, I love my South Indian vegetarian foods, from time to time and I often made tadka dhal, rasam and rice, for my own consumption.

As a couple, we both come from very different backgrounds, from Asia and Africa and of course, we have very British sensibilities also, so our cooking is a true fusion of flavours.

From Oriental to African, and sometimes the hearty British brunch with an African twist (read the addition of Scotch bonnet peppers, spring onions and Titus sardines to scrambled eggs).

Here is an image of when I roasted Spatchcock poussin, which already came part marinated – I added to it with a Danish ‘Granny’s rub’ from an obscure shop in London’s Olympic land, Stratford.

My husband has crowned me the ‘Queen of the marinade’, due to my recent stints of home cooking, as eating out is a rare affordable option (despite us both having Taste Cards) and while I’d always loved cooking, time was always a factor in creating space in my life for it. I am humbled by his compliment and sweet love for me and hope to deliver some good food selections to him and those who visit us.

We have taken to getting together in the kitchen and my love is the blending of spices, while he’s very good at fine chopping of various peppers, spring onions, garlic, ginger and all such magnificent ingredients.

As a kid, my Dad always spoke of Pataks, as he spent some of his life in the UK before moving to Denmark and Africa and then moving back for good when I was a kid. Mr Patak himself, used to run a store in the Drummond Street area of London, an area that PhD students like my Dad were living in.

Mr LG Patak came to the UK with Β£5 in his hand and created an empire, while servicing the culinary needs of so many students, and his legacy continues, with the likes of me, who may infuse with spice powders like Jaffna roasted curry powder and Rajah spices garam masala, but often finish off an Indian style marinate with a rub of Pataks Korma paste or Madras paste. I find that it just adds to the flavours descending all the way to the core of the meat marinated.

This is an image by Akin Aworan, from a trip to Fez in Morocco, where meat was always beautifully soaked in flavour.

I am a big fan of the Marks and Spencer spice mills and more so, of the Jamie Oliver ones – they make my life easier and quite often, a good Keralan black pepper, like the Tellicherry from Jamie’s collection, or the Wayanad variety from Lakeland, are all one needs to finish off fabulous dish.

Bart’s spices also make some amazing ready mixed spices, like their Moroccan Ras el hanout, which I procure at Waitrose. I also met the Fox’s spices guys at the Ideal Home Show and picked up some fabulous and rare items, that have since enhanced my cooking.

My Hungarian sister in law introduced us to Paprika and it’s virtues – we now seek good capsicum peppers on our grocery trips and also cook a lot with wine and fresh herbs. Our kitchen often has a pot of fresh parsley, coriander and/or basil growing, as we enjoy the subtle flavours they impart and thus enhance our food.

With my health juggle, post a fairly big surgery, eating in is more important, as is knowing exactly what is in my food. I have to make sure I am gluten free and also incorporate things like rice bran oil, coconut milk, quinoa and different types of grains into my diet. The hubby also loves rice and when he fancies pasta or pizza, we tend to find gluten free varieties for me, to go with the sauces he makes so competently. There is a baby gluten free pasta at Boots, that I can eat, and M&S do some nice pizza bases, but I digress.

Back to the marinade that my new crowing at home beckons, I find that it’s about blending flavours that ‘may’ work together, like dill seeds or coriander seeds, with pastes, oils, vinegars and all such foodie delights. I’ve found that oil helps the marinade seep through, and stabbing the meat well is not just stress relief, but also allows for a tastier end product!

In London, there are luxury stores like Selfrigdes, Harrods and Harvey Nichols that stock some unusual varieties of spices, herbs and condiments. When I have some spare cash, I head down, if not to buy, then to get ideas and be a tad impulsive in adding zing to my culinary journeys.

Happy cooking, food lovers. I hope to share more on this topic, in the near future, God willing. Be blessed, enjoy taste explosions in your mouths and surrender to the glorious aromas that behold.

Photos: Yours truly, who is an amateur photographer with a phone camera, and the wonderful pro Akin Aworan

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