Iâ€™m a Jamie Oliver sort of cook: Chuck in a handful of this, a pinch of that and see what happens. Over the years though, Iâ€™ve learned that certain flavours work well with others and sometimes the craziest ingredients make the tastiest food. My 10 secret ingredients are from my favourite tried-and-tested recipes which have earned me â€˜compliments to the chefâ€™ time and time again. These combinations may look mad, but trust me, they work. Go on, make your dinner a little more interesting!
Marmiteâ€¦in Spaghetti Bolognese
Some of you love it and some hate it, but a little Marmite makes Bolognese sauce tangy and rich, enhancing the flavour of the tomatoes and the beef perfectly. I would use about half a teaspoon to serve four people, adding it in at the beginning of cooking the sauce to let the flavours develop. Just donâ€™t mention it to the Marmite-haters at the table.
Dark Chocolateâ€¦in Chilli con Carne
Chocolate is not just for sweet dishes. A few squares of 70% or higher chocolate grated into a chilli con carne thickens, richens and adds a wonderful earthy flavour. If you can get it, dark chocolate with chilli is even better to add a spicy kick.
Cinnamonâ€¦in Shepherdâ€™s Pie
Add a generous pinch of cinnamon to the meaty bit of your shepherdâ€™s (or cottage) pie and youâ€™ll gain a beautiful flavour which makes this English favourite extra-special. Cinnamon and beef are perfect partners.
Mint Teaâ€¦on Roast Lamb
Before roasting your lamb joint, open a bag of mint tea and mix it with a little olive oil. Rub it over the outside of the lamb (score the skin for extra flavour) and massage into the skin. Black tea gives an interesting smoky flavour and of course, we all know that mint was made for lamb.
I grew up eating my curry with freshly sliced banana on top of it, and after having Peshwari naan bread with raisins, I concluded that fruit and curry is a match made in heaven. Stew small cubes of apple in your chosen curry sauce until soft but not mushy and you will discover the delights of sweet and spicy flavours in harmony. Alternatively, have your curry with thinly sliced fresh apple and raisins. Perfect.
Parmesanâ€¦on Roast Potatoes
This weird tip was from a taxi driver, believe it or not. He describes the ideal roast potatoes as parboiled, roughed-upÂ with a fork, tossed in hot olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan cheese before roasting. He turned out to be a culinary genius and I discovered the crunchiest, tastiest roast potatoes Iâ€™ve ever had. Try it, you wonâ€™t regret it!
Cherry Cokeâ€¦on Gammon Ham
Next time youâ€™re boiling a ham joint, consider using not water or cider but cherry flavoured Coca-Cola. My mother developed this odd habit and her ham roasts have been absolutely delicious ever since.
Honeyâ€¦in Black Coffee
My morning coffee isnâ€™t complete without a teaspoon of honey. It gives a beautiful burnt caramel flavour that is hard to resist and the health benefits of honey canâ€™t be underestimated.
Chilli Sauceâ€¦in Mushy Peas
Nandoâ€™s restaurant have a side dish called â€˜Macho Peas.â€™ I loved it so much that, after trial and error, I recreated it at home: Cooked peas are perfect with up to a cap-full of any good chilli sauce, a squeeze of lime juice, a knob of butter melted through and a sprinkle of mint and parsley. Roughly crush with a potato masher and you have the perfect side dish for chicken, fish or pork.
You can buy Nandoâ€™s chilli sauce here.
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