One of the most intensely gratifying food experiences (for me, anyway) is to pull ready-(home)made ingredients off the shelf or out of the fridge or freezer, and throw together a fantastic meal in minutes, all homemade, but with minimal effort. I will be speaking to this much more during the growing and gardening season, but it doesn't have to be stuff made from fresh or seasonal ingredients, soup stock being the obvious example. Sure, it takes a bit of doing ahead of time, but once it's ready to use, it couldn't be easier, or more delicious.
I have been repeatedly impressed with the benefits of having long-storing braising liquids on hand. The recipes for such ingredients tend to be fairly involved, and I confess it can be a challenge to find the time to make them. Most recently, I knew I wanted to make one, but it took a good month before I actually managed to fit it into my meal plan. But when I did, I made wonderful braised short ribs, and then happily froze some of the thickened braising liquid to use as stir-fry sauce, and stored the un-used liquid in the fridge, where it will last for months. I just used some of it to braise blade steaks, and it was one of the easiest meals I've made in a while: place tough steaks in a small casserole, cover with the liquid, bake for 2 hours, remove tender and flavourful meat with delicious sauce, and serve with steamed cauliflower and broccoli and brown rice. D inhaled the rice and the steak and then asked for more.
I've used the following braising sauce, as well as a homemade teriyaki sauce, both of which have amazed me with their fantastic flavour and their versatility. It can be a challenge to gather all the ingredients and find the time to make it, but you won't regret it. In fact, I'll bet you make it more than once:
Star-Anise Soy Marinade or Braising Liquid
(adapted from Vancouver Cooks)
8 pieces star anise
2 t. cardamom seeds
1 T. ground coriander
4 c. soy sauce
2 heads garlic, minced
2 T. ground black peppercorns
2/3 c. fresh lemon juice
2 onions, finely ground in a food processor
4 T. minced fresh ginger
3/4 c. organic cane sugar
1/3 c. canola oil
2 T. minced lemongrass
1 3/4 c. water
2 T. sambal oelek (chili paste), or to taste (I go light on the sambal oelek, to allow for D's tender palate)
Toast star anise and cardamom seeds in a dry fry pan, 3 or 4 minutes, until fragrant. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and store in a glass jar in the fridge. It will keep up to 6 months. Pour over short ribs, blade or chuck steaks and slow roast, or strain and thicken with cornstarch to use as a sauce, or strain and reduce by half, add honey, and use as a glaze. Or use your creativity, and see what you come up with!