Guajillo meat marinade

There are some things which are very smug-making to have in a fridge. A bowl of fruit compote, for example. A bundle of herbs all lovingly wrapped in damp kitchen roll, a jar of homebrew kimchi, or a tub of bircher.

Then there are some things which aren’t so good for chi or zen or karma. I have a real grudge against little pots of dark green oily pesto. The ones where you took out a scoop to go with some pasta, and then put it back in the fridge. The ‘consume within two weeks of opening‘ rarely happens.  And when you check your back of the fridge pesto many months later, the cut-wet-grass colour is far from the bright green pesto dream.

My grudge extends to sachets of stir fry sauce and off-the-shelf marinades. They tend to get opened, half-used and never finished. They’re no way near as tasty as homemade versions, and they generally contain ingredients like fructose, which I’ve only met in books, and never in real life.

So, here’s a recipe for my favourite go-to meat marinade recipe. The secret are dried Mexican chillies. I keep a big kilner jar of them topped-up in my kitchen – unlike jars of sauce, they last for ever, and they’re far prettier to look at. Dried Mexican chillies are unusual to cook with at first, but once you’ve got the hang of it, then they work in all sorts of delicious recipes, (like this birria).

Earlier in the week, I blitzed some up, and rubbed it over lamb leg steaks before grilling (6 for £10), and serving with salads. I’ve also spread this on mackerel fillets before grilling (delicious!), and used it as the base of a pulled-pork sauce - bulking it out with some tins of tomato.

Guajillo Meat Marinade
Enough for 6 steaks

4 dried guajillo chillies (a combination of guajillo/pasilla/ancho is good)
1 tbsp white wine/cider vinegar
1/2 onion
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2-3 tbsp olive oil

  1. Dry fry the chillies.
    Tear up the chillies, and discard the stalk and seeds. Heat up a frying pan, and put the chillies in it, without any oil. Use a wooden spatula to press the dried chillies against the base of the pan, until they start to colour. Don’t be alarmed if they blacken or even blister a little.
  2. Put the chillies in a jug, and fill with boiled water until they’re covered. Leave them to soak for 20 minutes.
  3. Drain the now-brown-coloured water, and put the now-plump, fleshy chillies in a food processor.
  4. Blitz the chillies in the blender along with the vinegar, onion, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, so it forms a smooth paste. If needed, loosen with a small splash of water.
  5. Massage the chilli paste into the steaks, or over a joint of meat. Cook immediately, or let the marinade penetrate the meat, leaving it in the fridge for up to 36 hours.


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