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Is MasterChef right?

Niki Bezzant shares some ideas on how to cut the salt from your cooking, without cutting the flavour.

I’ve been thinking about salt lately. I’ve noticed on TV shows like MasterChef and other cooking programmes, the chefs are often encouraged to add more salt to their food. This makes sense to a point; salt enhances the flavours of other ingredients and brings them together. Restaurant chefs use salt liberally because it’s a shortcut to making dishes taste more savoury and tasty.

But I don’t necessarily agree that every dish needs salt to make it taste great – adding salt to dishes is an easy way to get flavour, but it’s not necessarily the only way.
Nutritionists tell us too much salt (more than a teaspoon a day, to be exact) is not good for us, yet most of us get far more than that every day without even trying. So it’s in our interests to reduce the salt in our food wherever we can.

How do we do that? And how do we still get great flavour in our food?

I’ll put my hand up right here and say I like salty tastes; given the choice between a sweet or salty, savoury snack, I’ll take the salty every time. Because I like salt, but I know I shouldn’t have too much, here’s what I do to get the flavours I want from my cooking:

  • Choose salt-reduced versions of ingredients like canned tomatoes and beans. You really won’t notice there’s less salt in these things once they’re added to dishes.
  • Use salty ingredients like soy sauce instead of salt in sauces, gravies, casseroles etc. These give you salty, tasty flavour with less sodium than salt.
  • Use spices during cooking, and fresh herbs at the end to give a real burst of flavour without the salt.
  • Don’t forget garnishes like parmesan, feta and blue cheese all add salty flavour; with these ingredients you probably don’t need any extra salt.
  • Save the salt you do use to add to your food before you eat it, as seasoning; but only add it after you’ve tasted the food to see if it really needs it.

Real salt-lovers will find it takes time to re-train your palate to living with a bit less salt… but it is worth it in the end.

I’d love to know your tricks for using less salt. Email me!

First published: Jun 2010



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