Seasoning Your Food
Seasoning is the act of adding ingredients to your food to bring out the flavour of the main components of your dish. We do it purely for taste purposes, not to add nutritional value or benefits, and the amount needed is different for everyone.


A seasoning must have at least some of these qualities:

It must bring out or unlock the flavour of an ingredient or it must compliment food to bring out the full flavour of the dish.
We often think of seasoning as adding salt and pepper to our food to give it extra flavour, but this is a very narrow way of thinking about the subject. Clearly salt has a major role to play in seasoning, but this isn’t the only ‘seasoning’ out there.

To many of us, food without salt tastes bland and uninteresting, and there is a good reason why we crave salt in our food – it is an absolute necessity for life. However, it is generally accepted that we have too much salt in our diet, so how do we season correctly, and are there any other alternatives we can used that do add salt, but at the same time, not too much?

Too Much Salt

First of all we tend to overload our food with salt at the cooking stage if some of our ingredients are tinned or preserved. This is because they are usually high in salt and the other ingredients don’t catch up.
The answer to this is to cook your food and then test for seasoning right at the end, when the flavours have had the opportunity to mix well. This is particularly important for sauces that are going to thicken by evaporation – a process known as reduction. A sauce with a volume of, say 500 ml will be less salty than it would be at half that volume and ready to serve. So always season at the end of the cooking process – though not on the plate! if you possibly can.

Also, we tend to add salt without actually tasting the effect of the salt. We throw a teaspoon of salt into our curry, for example, then wonder why it is too salty. The golden rule is start small – you can always add a little more if you are not happy but it is very difficult to take away if you have added too much.


Other ways to add salt


You can add other ingredients to your food, or perhaps I should say using the following ingredients in your food would mean that probably the dish needs less seasoning.
Bacon, ham, cheese, sausage, anchovies, smoked, cured and pickled fish, pickles of all kinds, garlic puree, Worcester sauce, tomato ketchup, bottled curry sauces, chilli sauces, some stock cubes, even butter.


The mouth effect


We tend to concentrate on sauces and gravies when it comes to food, but frequently the way we actually eat food will allow us to have completely unsalted foods so long as there is something salty to go with it. For example, old fashioned sausage and mash is a case in point. We tend to take a piece of sausage on a fork, and add a little mash to it. The sausage is salty, the potato is not. But the effect in the mouth is balanced. You can bear this in mind, for example when doing bacon and eggs. How often do you put salt on the egg, either to dry up the membrane on the top of a runny yolk, or to make the egg as salty as the bacon?

Neither is really necessary. When cooking vegetables, you don’t really need to salt the water, the combination of the other correctly seasoned food counteracts the lack of salt in the vegetable.

Using Pepper

Pepper is a very important condiment. White pepper with beef dishes is a complex but perfect match. Black pepper with tomato is a similarly important combination. On the whole, pepper adds some flavour, but also a little heat, which we can enhance in many ways.


Try adding a pinch of cayenne, particularly to bland foods such as eggs, or a splash of tabasco. For some dishes, such as hot mashed potato, horseradish is the provider of heat.


Other times, and still a seasoning, you want to add a little piquancy to your dish, and none is better than a few splashes of Worcestershire Sauce. It is equally at home with minced beef as it is with melted cheese, and the effect of the sauce on either is surprisingly different.


For a smoky flavour, try a little paprika, not so much as you would add to a paella, just a teaspoon – it makes a huge difference.

Adding Sweetness

Tomatoes are a case in point – they need a lot of salt, but if you add less salt and double the amount of sugar, you will find the effect very pleasing, more tomato flavoured. That’s the point of seasoning, it makes the food taste like we think it should. Sugar is a great condiment for savoury dishes, you hardly ever add so much that it tastes sweet.


Instead of sugar you can add molasses, honey, tamarind – each in small quantities.

Adding Herbs

Often a dish without herbs is bland, lacking in something and no amount of salt, pepper or sugar will make any difference. Herbs add flavours and often health giving properties, and make the difference when it comes to a meal.


Perhaps the most important one is onion. We start off many of our recipes with a sweated onion, not just because of the flavour of the plant, but because it compliments the other ingredients, same goes for garlic.


The traditional bouquet garni consists of thyme, bayleaf and parsley, tied together and added to a stew or soup, to be removed at the end of the cooking process. It can contain many more herbs too but the basic three are there.


The Mirepoix is a starting herb mix of onion, celery and carrot, fried in oil lightly. You might not consider this to be a seasoning, but is fulfils one of our definitions – it compliments the food to bring out the full flavour.


Sage and Parsley are two herbs that act as seasonings and are almost universally acceptable, but some are not. Lovage, for example is marvellous in vegetable soup, but would be horrid in a curry.