How to marinate (just about) anything from aubergine to salmon for the perfect barbecue

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Georgie Lane-Godfrey
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Choose a marinade, pick your favourite food below, et voilà, barbecue magic is yours...

You'll find eight marinade ideas in the first half of the gallery below, followed by eight foods to mix and match in the second half of the gallery. Happy grilling!

Illustration: Maïté Franchi

  • Marinade idea: Teriyaki

    Blitz 2 small red onions, 2 bulbs of garlic and 10cm of ginger in a food processor and lightly fry with sesame oil until brown. Add 200ml orange juice, 250ml honey, 175ml dark soy and 200ml sake, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

    Why it works: “Sweet and sticky goes especially well with saltier meats and fish. Marinate for the right amount of time – two hours for salmon but 24 hours for beef,” says Joy Brigg, co-founder of Porky’s BBQ restaurants.

  • Marinade idea: Margarita marinade

    In a bowl, mix together 3 tbsps of olive oil, 3 tbsps of chopped, fresh coriander, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 50ml gold tequila (such as Jose Cuervo Especial Reposado), ¼ tsp of cayenne pepper and ¼ tsp of salt.

    Why it works: “Beautifully simple, this tequila-based marinade instantly makes you feel like you’re on holiday,” says Brigg.

  • Marinade idea: Monkey Gland marinade

    Fry 4 large diced onions and 4 chopped garlic cloves in olive oil, add 1 litre chicken stock, 4 tsps Tabasco, 200ml Lea & Perrins, 200ml tomato ketchup, 200g Branston Pickle, 8 tomatoes concasse (peeled and deseeded) and 60ml white wine vinegar and simmer for 30 minutes.

    Why it works: “This is a traditional ‘braai’ (barbecue) recipe from South Africa and is full of tangy flavour,” says Brigg.

  • Marinade idea: Mint and lemon marinade

    Mix a handful of chopped fresh mint leaves, 2 tbsps olive oil, ½ lemon (zested and juiced), a generous pinch of salt and sugar and 1 clove of crushed garlic.

    Why it works: “Zingy lemon juice with cooling mint is always a winner for summer,” says Izy Hossack, author of Top With Cinnamon: Stylish Sweet And Savoury Recipes (£20, Hardie Grant). “This works particularly well with vegetables.”

  • Marinade idea: Lemon, bay and fennel

    Mix together the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 6 finely sliced fresh bay leaves, 2 tsps coarsely ground fennel seeds, 2-3 cloves crushed garlic, 2 tbsps olive oil and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

    Why it works: “The unusual combination of bay and fennel adds a real zing,” says chef Genevieve Taylor, author of How To Eat Outside (£17.99, Bantam Press). “It’s my go-to store cupboard marinade for anything piggy.”

  • Marinade idea: Moroccan spice rub

    Mix together 1 tbsp each of toasted and ground cumin and coriander seeds with 2 tsps of chilli flakes, 1 tsp each of ground cinnamon and ginger, 1 tsp of brown sugar, 2 cloves of crushed garlic and 3 tbsps of olive oil.

    Why it works: “The spiciness of this marinade adds a real kick. Once it’s on the grill it also creates a rich, intoxicating smell that’s simply irresistible,” says Taylor.

  • Marinade idea: Spicy soy, lime and ginger

    Mix together the zest and juice of 2 limes, 3 chopped shallots, 2 finely chopped lemongrass stalks, 4 cloves of crushed garlic, a 5cm piece of grated fresh ginger, 5 tbsps soy sauce, 2 tbsps runny honey, 2 tsps ground turmeric and some freshly ground black pepper.

    Why it works: “This winning combination is sweet, salty, and just a little spicy. Add chopped bird’s eye chillies if you want to turn up the heat,” says Taylor.

  • Marinade idea: Chimichurri

    Blanch 30g flat-leaf parsley in boiling water for 1 minute, then plunge into icy water for a few seconds before patting dry. Blend with 5 garlic cloves, 1 tsp oregano, 150ml olive oil, ½ tsp dried chilli flakes, 35ml red wine vinegar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground black pepper.

    Why it works: “This fresh herb marinade works with meat and vegetables, and as a dipping sauce with sourdough bread,” says Lizzy Barber, co-author of The Cabana Cookbook (£20, Quadrille).

  • Serve your marinade with... aubergine

    Brush both sides of thickly sliced aubergine with olive oil and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side. Once cooked, drizzle the marinade over the aubergine and serve. “With vegetables it’s best to marinate after grilling them,” says Hossack. “Hot vegetables will absorb the marinade as they cool.”

  • Serve your marinade with... steak

    Marinate in a covered bowl in the fridge overnight. Remove 20 minutes before grilling, keeping it covered. For a 2-3cm thick steak, barbecue for 2-3 minutes for rare, 4-5 minutes for medium and 5-6 for well done. Keep turning to a minimum. Once cooked, set aside for five minutes, then serve.

  • Serve your marinade with... portobello mushrooms

    Clean the mushrooms but don’t rinse. Remove stems and brush the remainder with olive oil. Place the mushrooms on the barbecue with the gills facing up and grill for five minutes on each side. Once cooked, baste with marinade and serve.

  • Serve your marinade with... ribs

    Place ribs in a dish and pour over two thirds of the marinade, and rub in. Cover with cling-film and marinate overnight in the fridge. Remove cling-film, cover the dish with foil and oven cook at 150°C for 2.5 hours, basting once or twice. Remove and brush with remaining marinade. Barbecue to finish.

  • Serve your marinade with... chicken

    Marinate for two hours, keeping a little of the sauce aside for later. Cook a 1cm-thick chicken breast for five minutes on each side on the hottest part of the barbecue. Turn every minute and baste with more marinade as you cook to stop meat drying out. Serve with any remaining marinade.

  • Serve your marinade with... prawns

    Add the peeled king prawns to a bowl with marinade and mix to ensure they are fully covered. Cover with cling-film and refrigerate for an hour, stirring once or twice. Thread onto skewers then barbecue over medium heat for 2-3 minutes each side until opaque, then serve.

  • Serve your marinade with... halloumi

    Chop the halloumi into either slices or cubes. Soak the cheese in the marinade for a minimum of 30 minutes – 12 hours will give you the tastiest results. Place on the barbecue for 2-3 minutes on each side so that the halloumi shows grill marks and is warmed through.

  • Serve your marinade with... salmon

    “Salmon needs marinating for two hours to absorb the flavour,” says Brigg. Then put the salmon on the medium hot part of the barbecue or the skin will crisp before the inside cooks. Grill skin-side down for 4 minutes before flipping to the other side for 2-3 minutes until coloured through.


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Georgie Lane-Godfrey

Georgie Lane-Godfrey is a freelance travel and features writer. In the name of journalism she has ridden Mustangs in Nevada, partied in Ibiza with MIC cast members and interviewed women on the frontline of feminism. She likes horses and cheap chocolate.