Spring Fling: The Ideal Starter and Main Course Combinations

3 November 2016

While we love the idea of a full three course meal (or even a two course meal) at least once a week, the reality is that very few South Africans do this. We’re all in favour of quick recipes. and easy meals most days of the week. After all, time is money!

Really though, when it comes to pairing up courses for a special meal or just because you have some spare time, a lot of us fall short. We might love fish and also love a well-prepared steak, but most food gurus would tell us that tasty steak starter followed by a fish curry is probably not an example of brilliantly paired food.

So how do you get that perfect match? Here are our tips for making sure that your courses complement each other perfectly.

Consider the usual pairings

The obvious way to ensure all your courses complement each other is to think about what ingredients normally work well together. For instance, if you were to have chicken at home as a main, what flavours and textures go well with it? Beef is a natural pairing with flavours like tomato, and side dishes are often potato based. So, after choosing your main, your starter should make use of the kinds of flavours and ingredients you would usually pair with the key ingredient of the main dish.

Remember to also avoid pairing different foods prepped the same way. So for instance, don’t do two deep fried dishes, two crumbed dishes, or two dishes grilled and served in the same sauce.

With that in mind, here are some general guidelines and then a few specific combinations to kickstart your two course easy recipes for dinner.

What to pair with beef mains

If your main is a hearty beef dish like steak, stew, beef pie or even boerewors (after all, it is summer) you’ll want to follow these pairing guidelines to ensure your starter fits well.

Beef is generally paired with something high in carbohydrates. Think steak and chips, sishebo and rice, casserole and mash and so on.

If you’re cooking beef and are looking for a perfect starter, here are two recommendations. For a “pub style” beef main, opt for a starter of crispy potato skins. If your main dish is a little bit more refined and sophisticated, another good option is a toasted homemade bread with cherry tomatoes, and thin slices of your favourite cheese.

What to pair with chicken

Chicken is one of few meats that seems to pair well with almost anything. Therefore, you have quite a bit of freedom when choosing a starter. Your starter should probably be guided by the type of chicken dish. Something heavy, spicy and with a lot of intense flavours should be paired with a light starter, and vice versa. Try to remember to keep the indulgent ingredients to one course.

For chicken dishes, here are some recommendations. Filling and hearty sishebo recipes such as this would be well matched with a starter such as crackers or homemade breads and vegetable dips. Another option would be a crispy green salad featuring red onions, cucumber, beetroot and olives along with a tangy vinaigrette.

For something such as grilled lemon and herb or peri peri chicken, your starter can be more indulgent. If you want to go for something impressive and delicious, a tasty combination of fruit preserves and cheese is perfect. Serve the starter with crispy bread or your choice of baked crackers dipping into the gooey cheese.

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