Tips for Creating Healthy Flavoursome Food

img_2668Are you interested in creating some mouth watering meals using herbs and spices? Without a doubt one of the biggest issues that clients have mentioned is how to create different flavours using herbs and spices. Many are worried they will ruin a dish by using the wrong spice combination or too much spice. In my kitchen my recommendation is that there is no right or wrong way to season, marinate or cook. As a home cook, I view my kitchen as a blank canvas where I can experiment and take risks. Yes, I occasionally have disasters but how else do I learn about fusing flavours.

It is my hope over a series of blogs that I am able to inspire home cooks, experienced and novice ones to add a new dimension to their cooking, using some bold flavours to enhance the simplest of meals. Cooking from scratch is the healthiest option, it saves you money from not buying so much processed foods and it can encourage the family to cook together. This blog is dedicated to giving you some ideas on creating some tantalising flavours which are Caribbean inspired.

MARINADE : For a Caribbean Style marinade blend fresh coriander/ cilantro, spring onions, parsley, thyme, lime juice, ginger and chilli to add a burst of flavour. Use as a marinade on meats, seafood and vegetables. Add soy sauce to meat and herb marinade and allow to marinate, the longer the better. This herb seasoning will keep a month in refrigerator.

HERBS: Fresh herbs are quintessential holy trinity of Caribbean cooking. Add as marinade, during cooking and as garnish to add extra depth to dishes. Some basic herbs: Spring onions, coriander, parsley, thyme and spring onions.
Use the stems and leaves of fresh herbs cilantro/ coriander. The stems are very fragrant unlike parsley stems.Salt sprinkled onto cutting board will keep herbs from flying around when chopping herbs.
Fresh basil keeps much better and longer at room temperature with the stems in water.

LIME & LEMON :To optimize the juice you get from a lemon or lime, roll it hard under your palm for before juicing. In a hurry, microwave for 10 sec.
When a recipe calls for zest, instead of grating it into a separate container, hold the zester over the bowl and zest directly into mixture. This way captures the aromatic citrus oils that are sprayed into the bowl.

SEASONING : Season all of your food from start to finish. Seasoning in stages brings the most out of your ingredients and gives you the most flavour. I love to use spice mixes to make my everyday cooking easy such as All Purpose Seasoning & Cajun Seasoning ( blend of 9 spices)

SPICES: Store spices in a cool, dark place. Humidity, light and heat will cause herbs and spices to lose their flavour. Have a ready supply of spices : coriander, black pepper, salt, paprika, thyme, oregano, basil, chilli pepper, cumin, curry powder and all purpose seasoning.
Keep flavoured vinegars near the stove so you won’t always reach for the salt. Acid enhances flavour.

BBQ: Barbecuing is a healthy alternative to frying. Stuck indoors during the winter or rainy days use a cast iron grill pan to achieve similar results.
Marinate meat, chicken or seafood in a fresh Caribbean herb rub for great flavour. Look out for Kitchen Thyme’s Caribbean Herb Rub coming soon.

COCONUT MILK : Fresh coconut milk is a staple in many Caribbean dishes. Blend coconut with hot water. Strain and remove the pulp. Add coconut milk to curries, stews and any dish needing a sauce. The pulp can be baked and ground into coconut flour.
Have you ever tried homemade Coconut ice cream? It’s delicious!

SWEET POTATO : Apart from being full of vitamins C, D and B6 and the minerals iron, magnesium and potassium, they release natural sugars slowly into the bloodstream, helping to ensure your body receives a balanced and regular source of energy. Sweet potatoes are very versatile and can replace potatoes in most dishes.

FRUIT Mangoes, pineapples , oranges are wonderful eaten fresh however they add flavour to cooking. Add to vegetables or meat dishes to add a sweet dimension.
Freeze left over fruit and make smoothies all year round. Mango, Avocado, spinach & coconut milk smoothie.

CHILLI : Excellent source of Vitamin A & C. Chillies come in different shapes and sizes. Many stimulate the appetite with its pungency but also fruity, floral, smokey, nutty or liquorice taste.
To add flavour and not heat, my Mom adds the whole chilli pepper such as scotch bonnet pepper to soups and stews. Remove whole pepper before serving.
Reduce the heat of chiles by removing the seeds.

GINGER: Peel ginger with a spoon. It is part of the aromatic base for most stir-fries and curries. Cook it in a wok with garlic, spring onion and a little chilli, add the meat of your choice followed by some vegetables and then flavour with soy sauce, rice vinegar and a touch of sugar for a simple and delicious supper.
Perk up a salad with a ginger vinaigrette. Simply chop a small piece of ginger finely, add vinegar, olive oil and some sugar.
Ginger tea is one of the best ways to feel the restorative properties of the spice. Simple simmer peeled, sliced ginger in water for half an hour, then discard the pieces of root. Add sugar to taste and a squeeze of lemon or lime for extra zing.

GARLIC: Use minced garlic for sautéing as less likely to burn than sliced. Buy the freshest garlic the fresher the sweeter it will be. The best garlic has firm tissue-like skin and should not be bruised, sprouted or soft.Peeled garlic can be frozen. Roast garlic whole in oven. Cut in half, squeeze out pegs. Add to dishes for smoky taste. Can be frozen.

VEGETABLES Use a coarse microplane to shave vegetables into salads or vinaigrettes. You can create an orange-fennel dressing by adding grated fennel and orange zest to a simple vinaigrette.
Freeze in season vegetables e.g pumpkin to enjoy year round.
Make stock with left over vegetables, freeze in plastic bags for making soup or making sauces.
To get nice, crispy caramelisation on roasted vegetables, heat oven to high heat. Toss vegetables with olive oil and seasoning. Place on hot pan.
Prolong the lifespan of greens by wrapping them loosely in a damp paper towel and placing in a resealable plastic bag.
For perfect vegetable soup, start with diced carrots, onions, peppers and tomatoes sautéed in oil or butter before you add any liquid. This brings out the taste and caramelises the sugars.
Caramelise onions very quickly by cooking them in a dry nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. They will caramelise beautifully in a lot less time than with traditional methods.

PASTA :Cook pasta 1 minute less than the package instructions and cook it the rest of the way in the pan with sauce.
Do not use oil in the water when boiling pasta: It will keep the sauce from sticking to the cooked pasta.

VINAIGRETTE : Homemade vinaigrettes have fewer ingredients and taste better than bottled ones. Just put all the ingredients in a sealed container and shake.
When seasoning a salad, use coarse sea salt mixed with olive oil. It will stay crunchy when combined with the vinaigrette.

EASY MEAL TIP For an easy weeknight meal, save and freeze leftover sauces from previous meals in ice cube trays. The cubes can be reheated in a sauté pan when you need a quick sauce.

ROASTING Instead of placing a chicken on a roasting rack, cut thick slices of onion, put them in an oiled pan, then place the chicken on top. The onion will absorb the chicken juices. After roasting, let the chicken rest while you make a sauce with the onions by adding a little stock or water to the pan and cooking it for about 3 minutes on high heat.

POT: A cast-iron pan is a valuable kitchen asset. It offers an even cooking surface and is a breeze to clean.

Recipes are only a guideline. Feel comfortable replacing ingredients with similar ingredients that you like. If you like oregano but not thyme, use oregano. Taste as you cook.

Remember – mistakes make some of the best recipes! Keep it simple.

Shoes off, music on, favorite beverage in hand — enjoy your time in the kitchen.

Cooking dilemmas? Send us your issues, we’ll send you ideas.