It all started with a stew. That slow-cooked mixture of chunks of meat and vegetables. The idea of a stew didn’t use to impress me much. Boring, I thought. I didn’t know that I was missing a few secrets. Secrets that transformed my cooking.
Let me share them with you.
I love my stews now. Every Friday I’m looking forward to the weekend. Not just because it’s the weekend. But also because I’ll be cooking a stew.
My stew has a rich, beefy flavour. Meaty taste that explodes in your mouth and fills up all your taste buds. Flavour that makes you want more. What are the secrets of this deep flavour?
Secret 1: Add simple ingredients that enhance meaty flavours
There are a few key ingredients that bring about meaty flavour. Why? They are naturally glutamate-rich. You heard about glutamates. They are the fellows that wake up the umami taste on your tongue.
- Pork fat and juice. Or both. From now on, keep collecting any roasting juices of your pork. Pork belly or pork joint are both perfect. But even the fatty rind of a pork chop will do the job (once fried or roasted). The flavour of roasted salty pork enhances meaty flavour of beef, lamb and game incredibly well. You can make even a steak more flavourful when fried in pork lard that you’ve collected off your roast. So even “mild” beef steaks like fillet and rib-eye can become incredibly meaty.
- Tomatoes. They add depth to the flavour. You can use fresh tomatoes or a tomato paste for the same effect. That’s why some recipes that involve mince beef call for a tomato paste (like in a cottage pie). Try them in any dishes and combinations.
- Anchovies. Yes, I know, it’s a fish. However weird it sounds, it works. Anchovies contain nucleotides which enhance glutamates 20-30 fold. Adding just a tiny bit to your stew is all that’s needed. Anchovies are the secret of many top chefs. And science proves their power as well. You won’t detect a fishy taste in your meal, don’t worry.
Secret 2: Brown the meat
Do you sometimes wonder why some recipes call for browning of meat first? Curries, stir-fry, even stews.
Do you skip the step or do you brown the meat? (I used to skip browning…)
Browning of meat is a huge flavour booster. Well, not just meat. Vegetables and potatoes. Browning is the key. What does it do?
During browning, a chemical reaction happens. It’s called Maillard reaction. Proteins on the surface of the meat react with sugars, they transform and make very complex flavours. Even scientists still don’t know all of them and how the process works.
But what we do know is that browning makes meat delicious.
So let me give you tips to get the most flavours out of browning.
- marinate the meat in a salty marinade (even soy sauce counts). Salt penetrates meat and locks in juiciness. Add some sugar to it to feed the browning reaction. Even 10 min of marinating is good (if you have more time, the longer the better).
- Drain the marinade well before placing the meat in a screaming hot pan. Have you noticed that when you try to brown wet meat it smokes a lot? That’s the steam coming of the surface. The steam prevents browning as it cools the meat. The meat surface needs to reach high temperature for the browning to start. So keep the meat dry-ish.
- Do not overcrowd the pan. Have you noticed that when you placed all the meat in the hot pan, it took a while for the browning to start? The meat released some juices and it all started swimming in a liquid… That’s because when you added all the meat, the pan cooled very quickly. So the meat juices have to evaporate first so the hot oil can start browning the meat again. For the browning to happen, the meat surface must be hot. That’s why recipes call for browning in batches. It is actually faster and you get better results than if you were to tip all meat in the pan at once.
It is easy to implement these secrets in your cooking – give them a go.
Enjoy cooking delicious meat (and vegetable) dishes with tasty roast flavours. You know the key now.