How to correct seasonings
Turning a ‘good’ dish into a dish with the ‘mmmm!’ factor is often just a matter of balancing out four basic flavours.
Most of us have had the experience of making a dish that tastes just amazing without even trying, while other dishes refuse to cross the line from bland to beautiful, no matter what we throw at it! But like all things culinary, the key to attaining that moment of ‘perfection’ is to get the basics right (with a dash of patience and a heap practice!). When it comes to a great-tasting dish it's a balancing act between four basic flavour sensations: salt, sweet, sour and what we call 'richness'.
The great thing about Power Cooking is by perfecting the basics, we can create magical meals that are brimming with natural goodness and flavour. So forget reaching for those beautifully marketed packets of ready-made-this and just-add-that, you don’t need ‘em! Once you learn to balance flavours using actual ingredients, you'll be surprised how much impact a small addition can have on the overall flavour.
Here we've provided an overview of the four flavour elements, and how and when to add them.
The salty taste in food comes from:
- salt (common and sea salt)
- soy sauce
plus salty foods such as:
It’s amazing how a little salt can really bring out the flavours of other ingredients. But remember, start small and build up slowly. Begin by adding just a half-teaspoon, stir well and taste. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out!
The ingredients which add a sour or acidic flavour to a dish are:
- lemon juice
If you're looking to boost sourness (acidity), try adding one of these ingredients, using your original recipe ingredients as a guide on which to use.
The main ways we add sweetness to a dish are:
- sugar (brown, white or palm)
- syrups (such as maple, golden or agave)
- onions (caramelised)
Sweeteners help balance the salty-sweet-sour combination of a dish. Again, add your sweet ingredient a little at a time. You may also need to add a little more salt, but a quick taste should reveal all. With practice you'll find this balancing act quite easy.
Richness of flavour
Due to the natural variations of fresh food, there are going to be times when your dish needs a little ‘oomph!’ Here is a range of different ingredients you can use for the job:
- balsamic vinegar
- lemon juice
- sweet chilli sauce
- tomato paste
- fresh herbs
- parmesan cheese
- fresh ginger
- fresh chilli
Be guided by the original ingredients list as to what to use. Add a little at a time and taste as you go. And remember, you may need to balance it with a little more salt, sweet or sour flavouring.
More tips on balancing flavours:
A little flavour goes a long way, so don’t be tempted to heap in a truck load to speed up the process. Be patient and add a little at a time – and taste, taste, taste!
If you do go overboard with your spices, try adding in bland ingredients such as potato, grains or extra liquid.
Allow ingredients to infuse for a minute or so before tasting.
Cleanse your palate between tastings with a sip of water.
Remember that heat brings out flavours while the cold will reduce them, so you may like prefer to season your dish at near-serving temperature.