Food: Cooking with rum

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Rum infuses well with most meats. Picture: LANCE SEETO

Cooking with rum

On my recent assignment in Sydney at the Fine Food Show, I was challenged to cook and demonstrate with one of our proud exports – Fiji rum.

Those same rich flavours of molasses, caramel and spice that rum gives to cocktails and desserts can add new dimensions to everything from pan-glazed lamb, delicate seafood dishes, a spicy pork curry to a hot toddy of masala chai.

One of the popular recipes demonstrated in Sydney was a rum-infused pork vindaloo.

The vindaloo curries are perfect with rum as the vinegars and spice in the recipe work well with rums, especially aged rums.

Choice of pirates Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane byproducts like molasses, honey, or juice.

Traditionally thought as originating from Barbados, plantation slaves first discovered that molasses fermented into alcohol.

Rum was the first branded spirit ever made and is known as the spirit that pirates drank in the Caribbean.

Rations of rum were also provided to Royal Navy sailors along with lime juice as it helped to fight off scurvy.

The flavour of rum can be sweet or dry depending on the aging process, barrel type used, and form of sugarcane used.

For a more robust flavour in your recipe, choose a dark rum.

Similarly, for a more subtle taste, choose a light rum.

Choosing the right rum

The first rule of rum in the kitchen is picking the right bottle for right recipe.

Aged and dark rums are ideal when cooking dishes with strong flavours such as beef stews, goat or pork, while white rums are often used for cooking seafood or poultry.

The easiest way to incorporate rum into a dish is using it to deglaze the pan after sautéing meat or fish.

Depending on the rum, you can get a stronger or lighter flavour after the alcohol is completely evaporated.

But you don’t always have to burn off all (or any) of the alcohol.

I also use rum when sautéing dishes with short cooking times, as all the flavours remain in the sauce and it gives a different and unexpected but delightfully boozy aroma.

If you want to use the spirit in a cold sauce or dressing, start with just a few drops until you get the flavour you’re looking for.

Rums in bbq marinades

The complexities of an aged rum make for a robust paste used to marinate pork or chicken.

In today’s rum spice rub the recipe incorporates some of the notes inherent in the spirit (brown sugar, orange zest, cinnamon) and others that are synergistic like cumin, coriander and chilli.

Six month cured hams with a rub of molasses, ginger and rum before cold-smoking is another way to use rum in cooking.

I love cooking with rum because there’s so much flavour to it and each style can be used in a specific way.

Aged rum lends caramel notes to dishes, while white rums can give a pleasing alcohol bite, and spiced rum is a no-brainer for cakes and desserts.

When you’re working with hearty meats like short ribs or beef that you plan on stewing or put in the lovo for an hour or so, you can treat rum just like you would wine.

The rum melds with the juices of the meat to develop incredible flavour.

Hot rum toddy

For decades people have used the hot toddy as a natural remedy for easing all those aches and pains that are associated with the common cold.

A mix of tea, honey and citrus with bourbon, whiskey or rum is actually pretty good at soothing a cold.

I have always steered to tea infused with spices.

Chai or Indian spiced tea is made with a mix of spices to compliment flavours of tea.

There are lots of variations and blends you can find for a masala chai but my favourite is one that includes black pepper and cloves which give it the warmth required.

The basis of this is a regular masala chai although rather than using milk I opted for condensed milk which gives it a richer taste whilst adding the required sweetness.

But the addition of dark rum, this spiced toddy will warm and cure at the same time.

Rum recipes