Keep tasting your creations as you cook to ensure you have correctly seasoned the food.
Keep tasting your creations as you cook to ensure you have correctly seasoned the food. Ron Chapple

Be a seasoned salt user in food

SOME of Britain's best chefs' secret kitchen tips recently ranged from peeling ginger with a spoon to using kachri powder.

Perhaps most surprising were the words of Jacob Kennedy and Rowley Leigh.

Both cooks' tips involved that most common of kitchen ingredients: salt.

Kennedy mused that " correct seasoning, to a chef, is as much salt as you can possibly get into the dish without it tasting too salty".

Leigh suggested that "the biggest difference between professional and amateur cooking is the seasoning: "I think a lot of cooks just add salt as an afterthought, whereas professionals use more salt, but they use it earlier as well."

This got me thinking. Almost every recipe I've ever used has either barely mentioned seasoning or just elliptically added "season to taste" at the end of an instruction.

If it's so key, surely there's more to it? A flick through plenty of cookbooks didn't offer much more by way of advice.

To learn the wonders of salt and, more importantly, improve my cooking, I needed the help of a pro, Michael Wignall, head chef of Michael Wignall at the Latymer, in Surrey.

Wignall is evangelical about the importance of salt and good seasoning.

"It's the basis for any great cooking," he says.

"You can have a great dish, but if you've not seasoned it, it's just not there.

"Salt brings the best out of food and - regardless of whether people say it's bad for you or not - the body needs salt to work properly."

Thankfully, most home chefs are past the big tub of table salt and now use sea salt instead.

Table salt, full of sulphates and anti-caking agents, is too impure for good food. To make sure seasoning is correct, you need to constantly taste food.

And not just the sauce or food, but the water or butter you're cooking them in, too.

"It's a basic element the home cook overlooks, like not waiting for your oven to warm up," Wignall said.

Salt is also key to adding moisture to food.

"A lot of people think that if you season meat, it takes the moisture out," explains Wignall, "but salt actually affects the protein cells' walls. It makes them bigger, so that they actually absorb more liquid."

 

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