Quick Fix Flavour Makers
Despite loving to cook, there is rarely time for elaborate meals at home during the week. Weeknight dinners are usually leftovers from the weekend’s slow roast, or quick dishes pulled together using any bits and pieces from the fridge and freezer (with inspiration from my cookbook Quick Dinners of course!).
But cooking simply doesn’t mean sacrificing flavour! Here is a list of my favourite kitchen staples to add big flavour, quick fix:
While salt itself is essential to bring out the flavours in food, flavoured salts can quickly and easily add an extra dimension to a dish. At a minimum, I always have herb salt on hand to season any meal (and every meal!), and use it in place of regular salt both during cooking and when serving. It adds depth and that enigmatic umami flavour to savoury dishes. For hearty meals such as roasts, barbeques or ragus, I turn to my beloved smoked salt, which adds a punch of earthy smoky flavour. Remember, you are not wanting the dish to taste salty but merely to bring out the flavour – taste as you go! These two salts are a great investment – they will dutifully sit on your bench for years and with only a couple of shakes will transform your meals.
This concentrated fiery concoction is made from blended peppers, oil and spices. I add a teaspoon or two to any dish that needs a flavour boost, including; pasta sauces, meat ragus, curries, meatballs, roast vegetables, tagines, soups, noodle dishes, couscous and even risottos. While it is traditionally used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking, I find a small amount does great things for almost any cuisine (I always have a jar in the fridge!). Add the paste in with the other wet ingredients, or use to coat vegetables and meats before cooking. You can even stir the paste through mayonnaise or Greek yoghurt as a dipping sauce or dressing.
Try my Harissa Chicken recipe available free in our ‘Quick Family Dinners’ eBook – it is a great example of big flavour, quick fix.
You can make harissa paste yourself (I have a Thermomix recipe in Quick Fix: Every Occasion), but there are also a lot of great artisan versions available from delis and specialty food stores. Herbie’s have a high quality Special Blend Harissa Spice Mix which can be used to make the paste or simply used as a dry rub or seasoning (Herbies also have lots of other spice mixes which are super quick and easy flavour makers – check out the range here).
While balsamic vinegar itself adds great flavour, it cannot compete with a balsamic reduction. A balsamic reduction offers the tang of vinegar while also adding a subtle sticky sweetness. It makes even the simplest salad delicious – I promise a bottle of this will make the family eat more greens! But make no mistake; it is extremely versatile having many uses beyond salad dressing. Drizzle reduction over steamed or roast vegetables, stews, pasta, steak, roast chicken, risotto and pizza, or brush it on as a glaze.
My recipe can be found in Quick Fix: Every Occasion where I make a balsamic reduction to dress a watermelon salad. Make a big batch; it will keep indefinitely in the fridge. Alternatively, you can buy it from delis and specialty food stores – my favourite is the Toscana Golden Orange Caramelised Balsamic Vinegar.
Golden, sautéed garlic does so much for a dish that raw garlic simply cannot compete with. But I am sometimes guilty of wanting a meal to be so quick-fix that even the time it takes to peel and cook seems too long! My solution – get organised on the weekend and sauté 20 garlic cloves in olive oil at a time, and then freeze in ice cube trays. Pop out a cube whenever garlic is needed – toss through pasta, add to salad dressings, spread on toast or homemade pizza bases, melt into steamed corn and other steamed vegetables, stir through mashed potato or add to any ragu, soup or sauce.
One of my favourite super quick-fix meals that requires no cooking whatsoever – leftover cold roast vegetables tossed with baby salad greens, crumbled feta cheese and a cube of sautéed garlic in oil (you might need to defrost your frozen cube first!). Drizzle the lot with a balsamic reduction (see previous) and you will not be disappointed.
HOW TO BATCH COOK GARLIC
20 garlic cloves, peeled
200g olive oil
Place garlic in TM bowl, chop for 4 seconds, speed 6. Scrape down sides.
Add oil, saute for 10 minutes, 100°C, speed 1, or until garlic is cooked to your liking. Divide amongst ice cube trays and freeze until ready to use.
Once frozen, you can pop out the garlic cubes and store in a zip-lock bag in the freezer until needed.
I hope this information helps make your mealtimes quick, easy and delicious! For 45 of my quickest, easiest and tastiest recipes, check out my latest cookbook ‘Quick Dinners in the Thermomix’.
What other quick-fix flavour makers do you keep on hand?