MY YOUNGEST niece was recently baptised. She was signed with
olive oil, and then later with the perfumed oil of chrism. This
preparatory custom goes back to Roman soldiers getting ready for
Nowadays, we are familiar with olive oil in the kitchen. Most
meats benefit from a slick of this golden liquid (keep the
extra-virgin stuff for salad dressings). In preparing any kind of
marinade, it certainly makes a difference. There
is no secret here, and below I give different options in groups;
but olive oil is always the ideal base.
Group A: oils and liquids
Olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, citrus juice (always
lemon, but also orange and lime), Worcestershire sauce
Group B: wet flavourings
Grated citrus zest, grated ginger, minced garlic, mustards,
tomato purée, chopped chillies, peanut butter, honey
Group C: dry flavourings
Paprika, cayenne pepper, mustard powder, cumin, salt,
crushed peppercorns, dried herbs such as
For the method, it depends on how much meat you have to
marinate; but use a ratio of 3:2:1 parts from A:B:C respectively.
For example, a pack of chicken drumsticks using 3 tablespoons of
olive oil (A) to 2 tablespoons of garlic and lemon zest (B) to 1
tablespoon of mustard powder. Place everything into a plastic bag
with no small holes, tie up the top, massage everything together,
and leave in the fridge for two to 24 hours. Then just barbecue,
grill, or coat and fry.
Chicken likes citrus and heat spices; pork takes Worcestershire
sauce, honey, and ginger well. For lamb, citrus, tomato, and dried
herbs. Beef works with everything. Where fish is dense and meaty,
strong flavours such as ginger and sesame are good; if more
delicate, then citrus and a little spice or herb.
Our native strawberries will be around for a few weeks yet. Here
is a Strawberry crème brûlée.
400g (1 lb) strawberries, washed and
300ml (half pint) custard
300ml (half pint) crème fraîche
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
6 mint leaves, chopped
5 tablespoons caster sugar
Halve the strawberries, and place them in a bowl with the
custard, crème fraiche, and vanilla essence. Combine all together,
then loosely mix in the chopped mint. Divide between four (or more)
ramekins, leaving a little space at the top for the sugar crust. On
the hob, set the sugar with a dessertspoonful of water over a
medium heat, and bring it to the boil. Do not stir, just shake the
pan to keep the heat even. The sugar will darken to caramel colour.
Quickly, before it goes too far, remove, and pour over the mixture
in each dish. If you find you need more, just deploy some extra
sugar, and do additional caramel.
Chill in the fridge for two hours, but not overnight, as this
softens the brûlée crust. Use a grill or blowtorch if you