Slow-simmering sauces and meats that have been left to marinate certainly stir up culinary excitement... when you time on your side. But when you’re busy, hangry and in need of hearty flavours, turn to the ingredients that can help deliver instant gratification. These six super products will transform midweek meals into special feasts without the fuss:
This herb-based sauce is so much more than pasta’s supporting act. Peppery basil, creamy pine nuts and sharp, tangy parmesan make it an ideal coating for chicken, fish and veggies before cooking – just cover with foil to prevent burning.
Banish the bland with these intensely flavoured little bombs. Briny and strong in taste, capers often sit alongside smoked fish ( we’re looking at you, smoked salmon pasta alfredo) or atop crostini. However, when time is of the essence, add them to buttery sauces and pour over tuna steaks and fish fillets for extra oomph – you don’t have to spend ages marinating to get punchy flavour.
This hot shot condiment from North Africa is a whizz when it comes to adding a chilli hit; if you wish to soften the spice mix with mayo, crème fraîche or yogurt (like in this harissa chicken traybake) the recipe may call for one hour marinating time, but placing it straight in the oven will work as well. For a spicy lunch, try these 10-minute pitta breads with smoked mackerel. Stir into soups, sauces, add to scrambled eggs and shakshuka for extra fire.
These beauties are true storecupboard essentials. With concentrated flavours, their power mustn’t be underestimated – a little goes a long way. Pep up your next salad with a sprinkling of parsley and oregano or try making a paste by mixing zaatar and oil; use to brush over a joint of chicken before popping into the oven.
This sauce is great if you’re after an immediate, salty, umami-rich flavour. It really comes into its own combined with fresh ginger, sesame oil, lime or garlic; see what we mean in this healthy quick-fix dinner of garlic, soy and honey roast salmon with sesame stir-fried vegetables, or Beijing fried sauce noodles.
Though its name may not sound wholly appealing, fish sauce is a hidden gem in many dishes; it’s most often mixed with palm sugar for sweetness, chillies for heat and lime juice for sour. You can add it to oriental dressings, sauces, salads and stir-fries for a touch of authenticity, like in these tasty fish cakes with spicy courgette and pomelo salad or steamed Thai mussels.
Not for the faint-hearted, this intense olive paste packs a punch – if you’re looking to add saltiness, you’ve found your marinade haven. Loosen the tapenade by combining with a little oil, then using to coat quick-cook ingredients like lamb loin or tuna steaks. If you do find yourself with a bit of time, our roast lamb leg with rosemary tapenade and warm potato salad is the perfect weekend lunch.