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Looking Into Salt and Other Seasonings Used for Cooking

Sharing food together – picnic scene

Without seasoning, all of us foodies might not have been such big fans of trying different foods and varied flavours! Seasoning is what adds flavour to many dishes, taking it to a whole new level of deliciousness. When thinking of seasoning, salt is the first thing that comes to mind. But there’s a whole world of seasoning options and tastes out there, waiting to be savoured.

Let’s start with salt

Salt is one of the world’s oldest commodities. It can be obtained from the ocean and inland saltwater springs or caves that were previously connected to the sea. However, most of our salt nowadays comes from salt mines and we have access to all kinds of salt from Table Salt and Himalayan Pink Salt to Hawaiian Salt and Kosher Salt.

No matter the type of salt you prefer, it is still the most essential seasoning because it makes any food taste better. Salt doesn’t have that much flavour on its own but it’s used to suppress or enhance other flavours and can make even the blandest ingredients taste better.

Salt is not a spice but a mineral, consisting of sodium and chlorine. As a combined element, it brings out the flavours in food by triggering osmosis. In other words, it draws moisture from the food items and as the water moves towards the surface, so does the hidden flavours. It also impacts the taste of food by affecting our own taste receptors.

Besides enhancing the flavour of food, salt can also be used to preserve and cure food. The reason for this is that salt dehydrates food items, thereby deterring bacteria known to break down food.

Our bodies need salt to a certain extent

One of the reasons that we crave salt isn’t only because of its ability to enhance taste, but because we need sodium. Sodium is an essential nutrient that is not produced by the body and, therefore, needs to be ingested. It plays a vital role in the regulation of bodily functions and is contained in bodily fluids that transport oxygen and other nutrients. Furthermore, it’s essential in maintaining the body's overall fluid balance.

Even though we need salt, most of us consume more than our bodies require. The body needs a minimal amount of sodium; no more than 5g or 1 teaspoon per day. This equals 2000mg of sodium. Too much salt can lead to a range of health-related risks. For example, too much salt has been linked to high blood pressure. This is why it’s important to learn about other ways to season your food, so you can reduce your salt intake.

There’s more to the world of seasoning

Besides the fact that it’s beneficial to your health to cut down on your salt intake, experimenting with other kinds of seasonings will expose you to so many different flavours! Below are just a few ideas to get you started.

Black pepper

Besides salt, everyone’s other go-to when it comes to seasoning is a crack of black pepper. This is often used in combination with salt, but can also do magic on its own. It goes well with soups, roasts, pastas, and most savoury dishes. Have a go and see for yourself with this Roasted Vegetable Soup.

Black pepper substitutes include white pepper and peppercorn mixtures. You can also try pepper alternatives like chillies and cayenne pepper.

Chilli

Whether using dried chilli flakes, powder or fresh chilli, it’s guaranteed to add a bite to your dish. Chillies can be added to your dish at any stage. It goes well with soups, different dressings and marinades, pizza and pasta. Slindile’s Creamy Chilli Pasta Topped with a Crumbed Chicken Roulade is a good recipe to start with. Remember to leave out the pinch of salt for now.

Lemon

With its zesty taste, lemon has the ability the bring freshness to any dish. It’s a source of acid so it can enhance the flavours of certain ingredients, just like salt does. A squeeze of lemon works wonders over chicken, fish, calamari, vegetables or in a dressing for salads. Here’s a delicious Butterflied Portuguese Chicken with Lemon Mayonnaise recipe to inspire you.

Garlic

Garlic has a powerful taste and can boost the flavour of your dish without increasing its sodium levels. To cut back on salt, double your garlic amounts in tomato sauce and marinade recipes. Or try it out by making this Fragrant Thai Chicken Stir-Fry without salt.

Onion

Onion can boost the flavour of almost any dish too. Even more so than fresh onions, onion powder or flakes offer an intense flavour and can replace the salt in your stir-fries, soups, stews, dips and salsas. Experiment with this idea by making this Jalapeno Guacamole Dip and replacing the salt with onion flakes or powder.

Other natural flavours

There is also a myriad natural flavours that you can grow in your own garden. Think fresh, flavourful herbs such as basil, rocket, parsley and coriander. You can also grow peppers (red, yellow and green) to add flavour in cooked dishes and fresh salads.

Herbs and spices

When it comes to seasoning, Robertsons has become a household brand for many South African families. With their wide range of herbs, spices and seasoning blends, it’s never been easier to find the right solution to boost the flavour of your dishes.

Dried herbs have become a staple in many pantries, not only for its convenience but also the variety of flavours they offer. One of the most popular local options is Robertsons Mixed Herbs, consisting of dried thyme, sage, origanum, marjoram, and basil – a winning mix to zhush up your dishes.

Alongside your dried herbs, natural spices such as turmeric, chilli powder, paprika, ginger and cinnamon are also handy to keep close-by to spice up your dishes. Robertsons Mixed Spice is a combination of flavourful spices; perfect for pumpkin fritters, hot-cross buns, and other delicacies.

Furthermore, Robertsons’ seasoning blends, made from herbs, spices and salt, offer some tasty alternatives to the usual salt and pepper starter kit. Popular examples include:

  • Barbeque spice: This spice mix should be a staple in every household and can be used to season and breathe life into a variety of meals, from roasted potatoes to egg salads.
  • Chicken spice: Despite the name, this spice mix is not just for chicken! You can use it to add zing to any meal, but it goes surprisingly well with spaghetti and saucy pilchards.

So, although salt does enhance food’s natural flavours and our bodies require a certain amount of sodium, it’s important to learn about other ways to season your food so you can alternate. Not only is this beneficial to your health, but it’ll also expose you to so many new and exciting flavours!

FAQs

Does salt really enhance flavour?

Yes, salt doesn’t have that much flavour on its own but is rather used to suppress or enhance other flavours. It can make even the blandest ingredients taste better.

Is salt bad for your health?

Even though we need salt, most of us consume more than our bodies require and this can lead to a range of health-related risks. For example, too much salt has been linked to high blood pressure.

Can I add flavour to my food without salt?

Yes, you can. It’s important to learn about other ways to season your food, so you can reduce your salt intake.

What are the best salt alternatives?

Black pepper, chilli, garlic, onion, and lemon are just some of the food seasonings you can use instead of salt.

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