The Cook’s ABC – Create flavour with less salt

By Alan Lugton, Cookery Manager

If you are used to high salt foods or add lots of salt when cooking, or at the table, you will find that food tastes bland when you first reduce the amount of salt. However, it only takes two to three weeks for our taste buds to adjust to a less salty taste.

Salt is classed as a flavour enhancer because of the way it interacts with food molecules and the tongues taste receptors. On its own, it is not that pleasant, and I always think why enhance, when you can just create more flavour in the first place.

Herbs and spices are a great way to add flavour to any dish without the need to add salt. Here is a great resource to download (PDF) for some tried and tested combinations to make your meals taste wonderful, without reaching for the salt cellar.

Garlic and Onions
These two beauties are great to add to dishes when you don’t want to add salt as they are packed full of flavours which change depending on how you use them. Use raw red onion in a salad to liven it up or roast some white onions slowly with garlic cloves to get those rich caramel flavours into your meal. Adding garlic at the end of cooking a dish will give you a more intense flavour than adding at the beginning.

Citrus fruit
Juices such as lemon and limes are great for mixing with herbs and spices to make marinades, helping tenderise meat and allowing the flavours to penetrate further. Adding zest into the mix along with the juice will add a fresh flavour to fish, chicken and pork.

Some more flavoursome tips:
• Eat food slowly to allow your taste-buds to appreciate the flavours you have created.
• Try black pepper as seasoning instead of salt – it works well on scrambled egg and pasta.
• Try roasting vegetables e.g. peppers, courgettes, parsnips, fennel and squash in a little oil to bring out their flavour.
• Use fresh herbs like basil, oregano or mint with pasta dishes, vegetables and meat. Fresh herbs are more expensive than dried but their flavour is far superior in colour and texture – fresh herbs keep for about five days.
• You can grow herbs in small window boxes or pots and place them on your windowsill, patio or balcony ready to add to dishes as and when you need them.
• Use ripe tomatoes or those in season to flavour sauces – add garlic and fresh herbs for extra taste.

And finally…
Salt is needed in the body to control blood pressure and helps muscles and nerves work properly. But consuming too much salt can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Adults should consume no more than 6g of salt (2.4g sodium or 1tsp) per day and children even less. Most salt we consume (75%) is found in processed foods, such as bread and cereals.

If you are making a big change away from all processed foods and do need to use salt, try avoiding processed salt and use natural salts instead as these have many additional beneficial minerals that your standard table salt does not.

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