The thing about being a grown-up, is that, even if you aren’t the sort of person who cooks, you may find yourself in a position where you need to cook for others. It might be for some friends after a sunny Saturday at the markets, some in-laws, or for a sexy date you’ve been seeing lately, but, every now and then, it happens. Now, I’m not saying that you need to “impress” people (it’s just not my bag to think that way), but when it comes to food, I want to enjoy all of my meals and for those I share with to enjoy them too. There’s something uniquely satisfying about sharing love with your food and magically silencing an entire table in a unison of gratification.
But, sometimes that can seem like a daunting task of endless dirty dishes – and nobody like dishes! While, I am known to use every pot and pan in the kitchen occasionally, in my experience, you can make some incredibly impressive food that does just that with hardly any effort or mess at all.
So here you are my lovelies, I’m spilling my secrets; the foods that have the ones I love moaning with pleasure (yes, with their clothes on!). Now you too can feel the satisfaction of loving others through simple and healthy food.
In the end, that’s what it’s there for, for sharing with others and bringing people together – nothing better in my book!
The Greatest Greek-Style “Marinade”
This is by far my favourite go-to flavour combo. While it’s meant for lamb and chicken, I’ve marinated tinned fish and chickpeas with it and surprised myself with its versatility and overall deliciousness. The “Marinade” is in talking marks, because while it is better to marinate your protein in it for a while, it’s not necessary to the flavour of the meal. That simply means you can bung it together real quick and still knock everyone’s socks off with the taste!
1 onion (red or brown), finely chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1tb dried mint
2tb dried oregano
2-3 dried bay leaves, crumbled as fine as possible with your hands
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3-1/2 cup red wine
Salt & pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and add your protein, covering completely. Either let it marinate or cook it, liquid and all on a high heat until cooked and the marinade has evaporated.
I love this served with wraps, homemade tabouli, spinach, haloumi, hummus and garlic yoghurt or skordalia (Greek potato & garlic sauce), no matter what the protein (lamb, chicken, kangaroo, chickpeas, tinned salmon or tuna). Believe it or not, the chickpea variation is my favourite – always a winner with non-vegos and vegos alike!
The Unknown-Country-of-Origin Curry Base
Ok, so this one I really don’t know exactly which curry it’s closest to, and to be honest, it varies depending on which spices I actually have in my pantry at the time, but it’s always delicious, and so much better than curry powder.
I got inspiration from Rick Stein, Julie Goodwin and Jamie Oliver (I think). Either way, it is so delicious. I use my mortar and pestle to crush it up as best I can (only the dry stuff), but I’m not too fussy about the consistency, or the amount of each spice I put in for that matter. I just put in somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon for each.
So here is the list. Make adjustments according to what you have available, but if there’s something on the list you don’t have, you should definitely try to buy it next time you’re at the shops. They’re always such good flavours! Also, it’s best to get the flavours whole and crush them, than to get powdered, but if it’s all you have at the time it’s no big deal.
Turmeric (freshly grated or powder)
Ginger (freshly grated or powder)
Cinnamon (stick (leave whole) or powder)
Cumin seeds (no more than a teaspoon)
Coriander seeds (always more of these than cumin)
3-4 cardamom pods, crushed
Chilli (fresh, flakes or powder), optional
The way I cook this is I cook onion, garlic, celery and carrot in a pan with oil first, add my protein (if it needs cooking) and then add the curry powder. The fresh ingredients can go in at the same time as the other flavours. I then add water and some tinned tomatoes, and/or coconut cream with any green veg and cooked potato or pumpkin. My Fabulous Vegetarian Curry Feast is a perfect example.
It’s so versatile that, even if you only have a few of the ingredients, you will still have a tasty curry in no time and it looks totally legit too! Winner!
I’m not at all claiming to have made this flavour profile up, but it’s definitely one that is good to know. It’s a very in-your-face punch of flavour, and oh my lordy does it go good with rice! The best thing about it is that it isn’t as much effort as the real masterstock flavour, but you can slow-cook it to really make the most of it, or just make it as a sauce for whatever meat you’re cooking.
2-3 star anise
2-3 cardamom pods
2-3cm grated fresh ginger
2-3 cloves crush garlic
1tsp black peppercorns
3-4tb soy sauce
You can either add these to a slow cooker with your chosen meat (maybe double the doses) or simmer in a saucepan until it thickens and pour over stir-fried vegetables and protein. Either way, it’s delicious.
Thai Curry Paste
In honesty, this flavour base can be used as a stir fry or with coconut cream as a curry. Either way, it is fresh and delicious with plenty of fresh vegetables and again, the protein of your choice.
1 fresh chilli (red or green)
2-3cm fresh ginger
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped and roots removed
2-3cm fresh lemon grass
4 spring onions
2tsp fish sauce
Juice of one lime
Kafir lime leaves (optional)
Blend all ingredients (except lime juice and lime leaves) in a blender or food processor until they resemble a paste. Add to a pan of cooked vegetables and protein with lime leaves and cook until fragrant. Add water &/or coconut cream and finish with fresh lime juice.
Ok, so now you know my secrets to simple but absolutely delicious food. Go forth and feed your love to others, but don’t forget to let me know how you go with it – I love a good food story!
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