Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How badly do you want it....adding flavour when you're salt free....

Wow, this has been a really difficult one for me.
I pride myself on my healthy eating habits and we are very much a 'cook from scratch' kind of family, so we don't have too many nasties in our diet.
But my new found resolve to be salt and sugar free is a real challenge. I'm aiming for no added salt in my diet at all, and as little added sugar as possible. It's hard!
To be honest, the sugar has not been so bad. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, and on the odd occasion where I want a sweet treat, I'm happy with a handful of blueberries or a banana.
The salt is a different matter. As someone who loves to salt everything, and who loves salty snacks like Brie on crackers, and who has been known to salt a restaurant meal before even tasting it, it's an imposition to say the least.
But I'm remembering to B strong, as per my post on the letter B the other day. I've also had my moments where the devil on my shoulder has said things like.. 'you've got to B kidding' and 'don't B silly, a little salt won't hurt', but I've steadfastly ignored him/her. Little blighter.
So here's a list of things I'm discovering really help lift the flavour of a dish, without the addition of salt.
1. Fresh herbs are the number one way to add flavour and enjoyment to a meal. Things like mint, coriander (cilantro), basil, chives, rosemary, lemonbalm, lemongrass, spring onion (shallots), and thyme are all saviours on a salt free diet. Don't be frightened to use them outside of their normal recommended recipe variations. I've added basil to stir fries, mint to lamb burgers and thyme to Thai food and the world did not implode. And just cooking with fresh herbs is a sensory delight.
2. Lemon and lime juice. Fresh or bottled, it doesn't matter. Either of these are a fabulous replacement for salt when you need a bit of a flavour boost.
3. Spices are brilliant too. I can't resist a dash of ground Cumin, Coriander, or dried herbs to any dish I cook. They just add an extra depth to the dish. The Asian and Middle Eastern spices like Turmeric, Star Anise, and Garam Masala (which is actually a blend of spices and means 'top of the shelf') are all worth trying.
4. Don't forget a bit of heat to add interest too. Chilli, Harissa, Pepper, Cayenne...they're all brilliant.
5. There's good reason why there's onion and garlic in nearly every modern day dish. They're second to none in adding a bit of yum to whatever you're cooking.
6. Tomato paste, semi dried tomato, and sundried tomato can all give things a bit of a boost too. Just make sure the tomato paste does not have added salt.
7. Vinegar of any kind is salt free too. So, feel righteous in passing the Balsamic, Red Wine Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar or good old White.
8. Braggs, Soy Sauce, fish sauce or Tamari. I hadn't ever given much thought to whether Soy or Tamari (which we buy for The Diva as she is gluten sensitive) had added salt, or any salt. Due to their salty flavour, I just assumed there was salt involved. But no there isn't. Braggs is a new addition to our pantry, discovered at the organic supermarket recently. It's close to Soy Sauce in flavour but way saltier. The best way to dispense Braggs is in a spray bottle, lightly misted onto your food. It's a great alternative overall.
9. Oil helps carry flavour to the taste buds, so often you'll find a dash of extra virgin olive oil or really good butter, will be all that's required to elevate a meal to tasty. That's why sour cream or natural yoghurt work well too.
10. And finally, it should go without saying that using FRESH produce over frozen, canned or preprepared, will always give the best flavour result overall. Hands down. And the best fresh vege for adding a bit of a salty flavour sans salt, is celery. Yummy and good for you!
Enjoy the real flavour of your next meal....salt free.

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