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Balancing flavours

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Not everyone is a whizz in the kitchen and sometimes food can get too spicy, salty or bitter. What do you do then? Sunny Rodricks tells you how to make it taste better while reaping the health benefits that they offer

Mealtime is one of the most exciting times of the day. But, what if the excitement turns into a big disappointment when it comes to eating the food you’ve prepared? Well, change gears and use these tips when something goes with your meal.

If the food turns out... SALTY
Salt brings out the flavour of food, and it is quite a remarkable kitchen ingredient. It even makes some sour foods taste sweet! But an accidental spill and you’ve almost ruined a perfectly good dish. Keep this in mind for next time: You can always add more salt later.

  •  How to fix it: Dilution is the only way to go. For sauces, soups and gravies, add water to dilute the liquid. Adding lemon, vinegar or a sweetener can also help mask the saltiness.

If the food turns out... SOUR
This mostly happens with salad dressings, especially if vinegar is included in the mix. The mistake of adding too much zest to foods occurs because while sour flavours enhance the flavours of the dish, it is easy to get the quantities wrong. Sweet and spicy dishes become great with a touch of sourness.

  •  How to fix it: Add a dash of sugar or salt to the dish to take away the sourness. With vegetables, roasting or grilling them works wonders.

If the food turns out... BITTER
No one likes eating bitter food. Ask a child to eat broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, or mustard greens and they’ll crinkle their nose at you.

  •  How to fix it: Bitterness is the exact opposite of sour tastes, so adding citrus juice, vinegar or tangy non-dairy yoghurt can help balance the dish. Squeeze lemon over sautéed collard greens. The lime will balance the red spices like chilli powder, which can be bitter. You can also add something sweet such as agave or sugar. 

If the food turns out... SWEET
If a dish turns out too sweet, don’t worry! A sweet-tasting preparation can be changed in an instant! Here’s how. (Tip: Avoid adding salt as it will only make the dish sweeter.)

  •  How to fix it: Add a dash of sourness or bitterness to make the dish more palatable. Dilute the sweetness by adding more liquid to the dish. If dilution is not an option, then try to balance out the sweetness with acidic flavours. Squeeze a lemon or add lime juice or a spoon of apple cider vinegar. Balance the sweet taste with seasoning to make the dish spicier.

If the food turns out... SPICY
Spices can take a dish to a whole new level, but not everyone is a fan. Their overuse in the cooking will leave you coughing and desperately grabbing for a bottle of water. So what do you do when you’ve unknowingly you thrown in a lot of spices?

  •  How to fix it: Squeeze a lemon or add something sweet like sugar to balance out the heat. You can even add coconut milk or other non-dairy milk to the dish. Serve ketchup, vegan mayo or sour cream on the side to help cool things down after a spicy hit.

Make food taste better!
Follow these steps to ensure that your food tastes better.

  •  If your food is lacking in flavour, try new textures. Add a little pureed vegetables, fruit or protein to solid foods.
  •  Serve foods cold or at room temperature. This can make them taste and smell better.
  •  Use more spices and flavouring in your food. Try adding onion, garlic, chilli powder, basil, oregano, paprika, thyme, rosemary, tarragon or mint. You could opt for sauces like BBQ, mustard, schezwan ketchup or chutney, too. 
  •  Make a shake by blending fresh fruits into ice cream or yoghurt to increase your nutrient intake. If you cannot tolerate milk, try lactose-free options. 
  •  Opt for seasonal foods that are rich in tart flavours such as lemon and other citrus fruits, vinegar and pickled foods. These foods stimulate the sense of taste.
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