The success of a meal plan can only be judged by the percentage of it that’s consumed. It may sound obvious, but the execution of a good meal plan requires planning meals you are excited to eat. Picking the right proteins, vegetables and sides is important, but picking the right condiments — I’m talking sauces, marinades and pickled things — is even more so.
January is the month for getting your house in order, and no aspect of one's life gets quite so revamped as the culinary. Meal planning is often seen as the key to it all, but the plan won't accomplish anything if it's not implemented.
You know those sauces that are so good, your view of all other food shifts from “things I’d like to eat” to “delivery system for said sauce”? Acquiring or making condiments of that level of tastiness is a subset of meal planning I like to call “flavour planning”, and its importance cannot be underestimated.
Once you’ve figured out what kind of food you’ll be eating that week, think about what kind of sauces, dips, marinades and pickled things would go well with that food. It doesn’t have to be complicated or new to your palate. For example, I have found I eat more salad when I make this blue cheese dressing, and that pickled corn brings sweet, tangy pops of joy to even the saddest bowl of instant noodles.
Two — one sauce and one pickle — is usually enough, as it is impossible to overwhelm yourself with too many options. (But really, if you want to make five different pickles, make five different pickles; live your tastiest life.) Also make sure to have a bottle of your favourite hot sauce around at all times. Hot sauce is important.
In this age of 'instant' appliances and meal kits, recipes that take more than an hour are often optimised and streamlined, or ignored completely. But flavour extraction can take time, and this intense, prawn-packed sauce base is worth every minute.
If you need some DIY condiment inspiration, we have quite a few. (You’ll notice a lack of homemade tomato sauce; that is intentional.):
- This three-ingredient ginger dressing that tastes like it came from a Japanese restaurant
- A two-ingredient duck sauce
- This McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce dupe (made famous by Rick & Morty)
- The creamy yoghurt cheese spread known as “labneh”
- CHEESE MAYO
- DUCK FAT MAYO
- This very good, very simple blue cheese dressing
- A fancy browned butter vinaigrette
- Miso — for adding umami to store-bought dips, condiments and dressings
- Speaking of miso, make this marinade for all your meaty needs.
- Actually, make all of these dead-easy marinades
- Kitchen scrap pesto
- Grilled pickled vegetables
- Beer-pickled vegetables
Obviously, any store-bought sauces, seasonings and pickles are fair game. If you have a favourite condiment that helps you eat everything put in front of you, please share it in the comments. I have eaten nutritional yeast straight off of a plate, so there’s no need to be shy.