Spending the next few months living in Sylhet, Bangladesh I thought it would be a good opportunity to refocus the blog this winter on some bigger ideas of cookery and food. So with each post I will explain a cookery mantra that will help you in the kitchen.
BALANCE FAT AND ACID
It takes alot to balance your flavours in cookery. When you make a soup, stew, sauce, or gravy often it tastes a bit, shall we say... off, missing something, or in need of a certain je ne c’est quoi!!! So what to do?
Have you made a soup that tastes a bit sharp and acidic; then add a splash of olive oil. If you are feeling a bit naughty, a pat of butter swirled into the soup just before serving will give the roundness and mouth feel that makes a good soup taste great. Often the big change, the real help, is a lil' bit of acid. And what do we mean by acid: lemon juice, lime juice, orange juice or a flavoured vinegar to cut through the richness and fat of a dish.
For example, when making pan gravy to go with your Sunday roast it often is quite fatty, even after skimming the fat off the top, and it may be missing a bit of spark. One can simply squeeze a bit of lemon or lime into the final product to brighten the flavour before everyone starts dumping salt on his or her food.
A few other examples of how this can work:
- If making a lentil soup use lime to brighten up final flavour before thinking of salt.
- When making a marinara sauce a finishing splash of balsamic vinegar or olive oil may be necessary depending on the freshness of the tomatoes and the length of cooking.
- A beef stew can go in so many directions: lemon juice or red wine vinegar can both help to balance the richness of the final product.
- Here in Sylhet all of our curry meals have been served with wedges of lime, chili's and cucumber which all help to balance and give depth to the meal.
- Often we here of “oddball” ingredients in recipes, secret tips, that in truth are just mechanisms of balance: bitter chocolate in regional Mexican dishes, coffee in chili con carne, preserved lemon in a tajine and chutneys with a cheese ploughman's are all methods to balance the fat and acid that make a boring meal into a masterpiece.
The key is in using only what is necessary and tasting as you make adjustments. These are simple ways to adjust, enhance, or change up any dish you make without adding the unhealthy and uninteresting option of salt. As well, use fresh/seasonal ingredients which have more natural flavour and sugars that don’t need much enhancement by extra salt, sugar, or fat.
It is simply a question of balance.
The purported balance of the new “natural” Frito’s, recently trialed vitamin fortified Pepsi, or fadtastic Omega-3 fatty acid pills are a cheap ploy to sell products to a population with an unbalanced diet, just as splashing salt on your food is simply masking a lack of balance in your cooking. Eating a couple pieces of fruit a day for a snack, a piece of omega rich fish once a week, or drinking some good old fashion water might help bring back some balance not only to the vitamins and minerals you want, but the sustenance and joy in eating that one needs.
In short, a bit o butter once in a while will not kill you, a bit of acid may help you cut back on salt, and a bit of thought about the food we cook and eat will go along way in creating a balance that is long overdue in how all of us enjoy sustainable and nutritious food with our co-workers, friends and family.