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FOOD Marinating made simple



Soaking food in a marinade infuses it with different tastes and tenderises meat.
?Soaking food in a marinade infuses it with different tastes and tenderises meat.

Marinating made simple

Redmond Cabot

Marinating meats, fish and even vegetables is a very simple way of infusing your foods with flavour. Marinating enhances flavours and literally injects taste effects and influences into your foods. It also alters the physical make-up of your foods, having knock-on effect on cooking times: Many marinades contain ingredients that actually tenderise or break down the foods, kick-starting the cooking process already and reducing cooking times.
Cooking, like all things in our lives, has changed so much over only a couple of decades. I well remember as a chisler you either boiled, roasted or fried the Bejaysus of meats. Marinating? No! Not for us. And as for marinating fish? No way … battered or fried!
But this has all changed, and marinating is no longer treated with suspicion. We now understand that the process allows all sorts – sugar, salts, garlic, herbs, honey, ginger, lemon or lime juice, mustards, oils, soy sauce, chillies, alcohol – to be combined in liquid form around your food to create whatever flavour effect you’re in the mood for.
Because meat has a tougher flesh structure than fish, it can take heavier marinades. Fish will successfully marinate with less-strong marinades, and in less time too.
One world-class starter, carpaccio of beef, is simply very thinly sliced raw beef, banged flat and drizzled with a vinegar, oil and shallot marinade prior to serving. Another starter, cerviche is simply delicate white fish marinated for a couple of hours in oil, lemon and garlic eaten uncooked – the marinade does enough!
Once you get the hang of it, you start to get the idea of many variables. A marinade can be done overnight, hours before, left covered on kitchen table, in the fridge … It is really an ever-changing bundle of different arrows with which to string your bow. It is only one flavour step away from last year, when I wrote about soaking a chicken overnight on a brine solution. My friend Piotr simply left a chicken overnight in a mixture of veg stock, orange juice, apple, onion and herbs, and cooked his chicken the next day twenty minutes breast down, and thirty breast up. The results were delicious!
Don’t forget you can enjoy a whole host of marinated vegetables and salads too. Here are two, basic marinades to get you onto the mood, after that you’re on your own!

Marinated Mexican chicken breasts
A good recipe to start with; easy and compact. You will see how the lime, sugar and herbs affect the meat even before any cooking takes place. Drop the chillies if they don’t suit you.

What you need

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 red chillies
  • 1 lime juice
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • Half tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
  • Olive oil

What you do
Mix the coriander seeds with the lime, sugar, paprika and some oil. Pour over the chicken breasts in a baking tray, cover and leave to marinate for 30 minutes. Place the garlic cloves (unpeeled!) and red chillies around the chicken breasts, add a glug of oil and roast for 30 minutes at 190 degrees. Serve with whatever veg or salad you fancy. OMG, can it be that easy? Yes, Yes and YES!

Marinated neck of lamb
Serves four
This is CRAZY. You cook with a can of coke, mixed with sweet chutney and seasoning. The sugar will tenderise the lamb, while the cutting flavour and complexity will come from the preserves. This recipe really gets you into the idea of playing with tastes to saturate your food with flavour.

What you need

  • 4 lamb-neck fillets from the butcher
  • 200ml fruit chutney
  • 50ml apricot jam
  • 1 can of coke
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • Seasoning

What you do
Mix all the marinade ingredients in a big-enough dish, add the neck fillets and leave for two hours. Take out and fry or grill until cooked. Serve with potatoes and greens.

Calling mussel producers
I’m planning to write up an article on mussel dishes. If you are a mussel producer, please contact me at

Red Cabot is interested in food, nature and small things. He sells his food at Westport Country Markets in St Anne’s Boxing Club, James’s Street car park, Westport, every Thursday, from 8am to 1pm.