Cooking with Rum

Last week I wrote about rum as a drink, and its difficult history. Rum also makes a delicious contribution as an ingredient in your food, too. Whether in sweet or savoury dishes, rum brings the richness of the molasses it is made from. Being a sugar product, it lifts almost any dessert to something special. Because it is often unsweetened, though, it can be used to give depth of flavour to many meat and vegetable dishes. Let's have a look at a few examples.

As a marinade
Rum makes a great carrier for sweet and spicy flavours and will get them deep into pork and chicken. You don't need to use a lot of sugar, as the rum itself will taste of molasses, so a rum marinade is perfect for high-temperature cooking on the grill, barbecue or skillet. Try this marinade next time you're cooking chicken thighs, drumsticks or wings:

The freshly-squeezed juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons dark rum from Barbados or Jamaica
2 tablespoons of Mushroom Ketchup or soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon crushed chilli flakes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (such as sunflower or peanut oil)
Mix all the ingredients apart from the oil in a bowl. Once the sugar is dissolved and all the other ingredients are well distributed, whisk in the oil. Pour the marinade over your chicken pieces and turn them over several times to ensure they are well coated. Marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour. You don't want to leave them much longer than that, or the lime juice will start to pickle the meat.

In a simple sauce
Just as you can with brandy or whisky, you can use rum as the basis for a very simple but luxurious sauce for fried steaks. You can do this with beef, pork loin or lamb steaks, but I like to use rum with venison. It's good to use a light coloured rum, such as one from Cuba or the Dominican Republic, and a gently spiced one could be pleasant.

Season 2 venison steaks with black pepper and a little salt. Fry them in a hot pan with butter and a teaspoon of oil, until they are done to your liking. Set the steaks aside to rest and tip any excess fat out of the pan, but do not wipe it clean. Pour a glass of rum into the pan and boil it for a minute, stirring and scraping with a metal spoon, to lift any caramelised meat juices and mix them into the rum. Be very careful not to expose the pan to any flame at this point. You need to be stirring, not standing back to avoid singeing your eyebrows! Add about ¼ pint of double (heavy) cream and continue stirring while the sauce boils and thickens. Check the seasoning, adding a pinch more salt if needed, and serve over the steaks.

To give depth to a stew or slow-cooked dish.
Deep, dark Guyana rum lends a wonderful flavour to slow-cooked beef dishes. I like to use it in braised short ribs, where the onions add sweetness. Some supermarkets sell ready chopped soffritto mix, and you can replace the veg with two bags of that if you like. 

4 pieces of bone-in short rib (about 8oz each)
2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
2 large onions, sliced
2 or 3 carrots diced
4 sticks of celery diced
700ml good beef stock
a glass of dark Guyana rum
Salt & Pepper
Bay leaves, thyme, sage
3 or 4 allspice berries
Gently fry the onions, carrots and celery in a light oil until they start to colour. Transfer them to the bottom of a slow cooker. Do not clean the pan yet. Put the flour in a plastic bag with plenty salt & pepper. Give it a quick shake to distribute the seasonings, then add the short ribs. Shake the bag to coat the ribs all over. Fry them in the pan you have used for the veg. You'll need to add a bit more oil. When they're browned all over, place them on top of the veg in the slow cooker. Pour about half the stock into the frying pan and stir to collect all the bits of caramelised veg and cooked, seasoned flour. Tip this into the slow cooker with the rest of the stock, the rum, herbs and allspice. Cook for 6-8 hours and serve with mashed potato.

In your baking
Rum is a favoured ingredient in dessert cooking throughout central Europe. Almost every country has a recipe for rum-flavoured bread, cake, pastries or biscuits. In the UK, it's particularly favoured at Christmastime, of course, but deserves to be used more frequently. Try adding half a glass to that 60s staple, the pineapple upside-down cake. The Beloved made a delicious apple cake last week, to which he added a couple of tablespoons of spiced, golden rum. It really brought out the flavour of the cinnamon in the cake.

Here's another of my Mum's easy cake recipes. One of my sister's friends nicknamed it "Semi Soggy Cake" because it's so moist. The original recipe calls for the juice from a tin of pineapple, but it's even better if that juice is replaced, in part, at least, with dark rum.
14oz can of crushed pineapple in juice
a shot of rum
10oz dried mixed fruit
2oz glacée cherries
4oz butter
8oz light muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs, beaten
2oz chopped almonds
8oz self-raising flour
1 tablespoon apricot jam
Drain the juice from the pineapple into a jug. Pour out a shot glass of the juice and replace it with dark rum.
Put the pineapple, juice & rum mix, dried fruit, cherries, butter, sugar and mixed spice in a pan. Bring gently to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes, then add the bicarb and remove from the heat. Stir the mix and leave to cool completely.
Preheat the oven to gas #4 (160 fan)
When the fruit mix is cool, add the beaten egg and fold in the flour. Tip into a greased, lined 9" springform tin and cover with the almonds. Bake for 1 hour, then remove from the oven, cover with a sheet of foil and return to the oven for a further 40-50 minutes. 
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack to continue cooling. Brush with melted apricot jam for a deliciously sticky finish.

Rum's such a versatile ingredient. I'd love to know what other recipes you use it in. Leave a comment and share your favourite ideas.

Next time: great wines for summer


  1. Excellent blog. The apple cake sounds fabulous and I always learn something new and useful from your posts. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for commenting. I'm glad you enjoy reading my blog.


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