Sick to death of boring breakfasts and dull dinner times? We all know the tried and tested methods that you can use to spruce up your routine meals. A pinch more salt here, a sprinkle of spice there — but what if you could do all this and more by adding just one handy ingredient?
Allow us to get you acquainted with cured foods. Curing is a preservation technique that uses salt to remove the moisture from various meats, fish and vegetables, to flavor them and prevent spoilage. You’ll find cured ingredients behind deli bars, in tapas restaurants, and soon enough, on your fridge shelves — but which are the ones to pick up for their bountiful flavor and health benefits?
These are our top four recommendations for cured ingredients that will add a little something extra to your midweek meals.
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‘Nduja, pronounced en-doo-ya, is one of those funny little ingredients that has been cropping up on artisanal restaurant menus for years now. Ever wondered what it actually is? The experts from Pasta Evangelists explain that the southern Italian salume “blends rich cuts of pork, such as the belly and shoulder, with sweet and spicy paprika and hot Calabrian peppers, boasting a unique flavor that pairs perfectly with bread and cheese and shines in our ‘nduja pasta recipe.”
But if that hasn’t set your mouth watering just yet, let’s take a look at some other recipes that you can incorporate this spicy slice of sausage into. ‘Nduja makes a striking addition when stirred through a stew, or even stuffed inside a mushroom or chicken breast. Thanks to its spreadability, you could even have it on toast if you’re after a hit of heat to wake you up in the morning.
For our next fermented find, we’re heading trans-continental. Kimchi is a popular Korean snack that has gained worldwide attention for its funky flavor and alleged probiotic health benefits. It’s usually made of cabbage, garlic, ginger and fish sauce, but there are other recipe variations depending on where you source it from.
Kimchi is particularly lauded for its versatility. It can be incorporated into any mealtime — even breakfast. While it’s usually enjoyed as a solo plate, it can also be added to fried rice or used to garnish a noodle soup. If you’re feeling bold, you could even combine contrasting world cuisines into one diverse dish by replacing the tomato in your pasta sauce with milk and kimchi.
Salmon is another protein that has long been cured to ensure its longevity. Tradition dictates that salt and sugar be rubbed onto the fillet before embellishing flavorings can be added. The possibilities are endless: from beetroot and gin to dill and mustard, Great British Chefs explains that “the cure ‘cooks’ the fish by drawing out the moisture of the fish and creating a syrup which cures the fish”.
Depending on which weird and wonderful concoction you opt to use, your cured salmon can be prepared in as little as 12 hours. And once that’s out of the way, you can refrigerate it and serve to be enjoyed with garlicky potatoes, rice, or even incorporated into a breakfast plate for some midweek morning magic.
Italy offers a treasure trove of glorious cured meats, and Guanciale is another shining example. If you’ve ever had a carbonara — a proper, authentically Italian carbonara — you’ll be more than familiar with this salty delicacy.
Guanciale is traditionally made from the pork jowl, or cheek, and is sometimes substituted with pancetta in recipes. Thanks to its fatty, melt-in-your-mouth texture, it’s the superior choice to supplement many a delicate dish with pockets of hearty Italian flavor.
As we’ve mentioned, carbonara is the main culprit. When diced up and added to a creamy pasta sauce, guanciale brings another level of belly-filling satisfaction to this common midweek meal. If you’re feeling bold, you could even attempt to prepare your own with controlled drying. But fair warning, it’s not for the faint of heart — or the tight of time. Happy dining!