Food tastes better when it is properly seasoned to bring out all the flavours. The seasoning of choice was always Salt which we now know is not the best thing to have in excess and healthy eating guidelines suggest that we avoid adding it. So how do we replace that as a flavour enhancer?
Salt in small quantities is necessary for life, you would soon be aware of health problems if you had no salt in your diet, the issue is with the huge quantities that are added to many processed foods to mask poor ingredients. There are many alternatives that can be used to give piquancy to your food. Fresh or dried herbs and spices are the obvious alternatives though I have to say, from a personal point of view, many foods taste just as good without any salt or seasoning. You get the full, natural flavour. Vegetables are one of the foods that can suffer from being salted in cooking. When you have lovely fresh Purple Sprouting Broccoli for example, or new Peas the salt masks the delicate flavours completely and turns them into something quite ordinary.
Probably the most common alternative for Salt is Pepper, it is certainly the one I use a great deal. I use freshly ground mixed peppercorns which add a richness and depth of flavour to savoury dishes. I do use white pepper with fish and chicken dishes sometimes from a presentation point of view but more often than not, I don’t worry about it! The next favourite for me is Garlic. It has huge health benefits in its own right and is invaluable in the kitchen. If I am roasting anything I throw a few cloves of unpeeled garlic into the tin and it gives a very delicate flavour. The garlic is very sweet to eat as an added bonus. Crushed or chopped in soups, stews, stir fries, in fact almost anything, sensibly used garlic enhances the flavours. If you are not very keen on it try just rubbing a cut clove of garlic across the surface of the pan before you start cooking. It won’t taste of garlic I promise but it will draw out the flavour of the food.
Bay leaves bring a soft warm flavour, especially to creamy sauces and egg dishes. It is very easy to grow and is available all year round so you can just grab a couple of fresh leaves when you want them. Bruise them gently to bring out the full flavour and aroma. My Bay Tree is just outside the door so I can grab a handful without having to get wet in the rain. Another favourite for me is Parsley, again for sauces but equally delicious in savoury dishes or as a garnish where it brings a unique flavour all it’s own. Coriander is also very popular of recent times and makes delicious soups when combined with quite ordinary ingredients like Carrots. Basil has a very similar relationship with Tomatoes and is a marriage made in heaven.
I use a great of Nutmeg in cooking as well, particularly with fish and cheese dishes, freshly grated it is almost perfumed. Going for a completely different taste sensation English Mustard powder is also very useful to draw out cheese sauces and makes a Welsh Rarebit something very special indeed, particularly if you add a dash of Worcestershire Sauce. Cinnamon is useful spice with red meats, I prefer to use a Cinnamon stick and let in infuse in the sauce for a while rather than the ground spice.
Rosemary is traditional accompaniment for Lamb but I find it very useful with chicken and fish dishes too, along with citrus fruits – the grated rind of lemons, limes and oranges can really lift a dish and cut through the richness that sometimes overpowers your taste buds. For more oriental dishes I like to use Ginger and Spring Onions (Scallions) or Chives which are a little more delicate. There are some low sodium alternatives to salt on the market and for most people these can be used quite safely. If you have a heart condition however, they are not advised because of potential issues with some medications, if in doubt you should check with your medical practitioner. There are so many alternatives to all forms of Salt that fall well within the healthy eating guidelines that it should not be necessary to add any salt as there is sufficient for our health needs within the natural foods themselves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:- Annie Horthorne grew up in the catering business and has always been an enthusiastic and highly regarded cook. She has a special interest in healthy eating and how to make it tasty and fun. Annie's delicious healthy eating recipes can be found at The Healthy Eating Guide