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Monday, 10 May 2010

Seasoning - transform your food and own it


Although Seasoning had become widely known as adding salt & pepper to food, there are many other ways to season your food. Seasoning is the medium which transforms food from bland to rich. It is the very thing that makes a dish distinguished. The reason why the same recipe comes out different in every kitchen. And the reason why an eatery becomes favoured over another.

Seasoning is adding ingredients to food that do not change its nature, either to give a particular taste or to emphasise the original flavour of this food.
Ingredients used for seasoning include: Oils, Vinegars, Aromatics, Condiments, Herbs, Spices, Salt & Pepper; as well as any mix of those.


Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Oils and Vinegars
can transform the palatability of food and totally change the eating experience. Using Truffle oil for instance adds a distinguished earthy tone to food due to its aromatic nature. A dish containing Truffle oil is straight out different in flavour than the very same dish with another oil. Furthermore, using Raspberry vinegar in your salad is a totally different experience from that using Balsamic vinegar for example. Even within the same type of vinegar, aged vinegars are deeper in flavour and make for a richer experience.
The flavours of oils and vinegars are suggested by the name. Sesame oil for instance will taste like toasted sesame and so on. Experiment with oils and vinegars, there is a wide variety to choose from, try nut oils, like walnut oil when roasting vegetables, this will lend a nutty flavour to the overall dish, which will pair very well with the caramelising of the natural sugars in the vegetables due to roasting.

Condiments 
Are used to elevate the flavour of foods and to stimulate the appetite. Condiments can either be an ingredient used in the food, like: fruits, herbs, spices, Alcohol, or even truffles. Or they can be accompaniments, like: mustard, ketchup, pickles, sauces, relishes....etc. Condiments like sugar, salt, oil, vinegar... have also been used as a reserving agent; such as in the process of pickling. Condiments could be used raw, such as onions, garlic or fresh herbs. Or they can be used as a prepared ingredient, such as sauces, chutneys, purees....

Herbs
Are so commonly used, yet are so under estimated sometimes! Each herb brings its own distinct flavour to recipes. They can even contribute to the look of your food and on occasion add a fancy factor to your preparations. A wide variety of herbs are available in supermarkets both dried and fresh. Fresh snipped herbs however add a distinct flavour that cannot be matched by dried herbs. If you are following a recipe that calls for dried herbs and wish to substitute with fresh herbs use 1 tbsp fresh herb to 1 tsp of dried herb called for in a recipe. Fresh herbs are generally added towards the end of cooking time because they lose flavour and colour while simmering; except for Fresh Rosemary which can handle long cooking periods. As for dried herbs, you will need to add them in the beginning of cooking time to allow their flavours to develop.

Take a look at the charts below and learn more about the most commonly used herbs...




Spices
Are aromatic substances that originated in plants known for their fragrant sharp flavours. they are the seeds, roots, fruits, or flowers of plants. Spices can be used whole like pepper corns, coarsely crushed, or powdered. They can be a plain spice (including one spice) or can be made into blends that allow you to add intriguing flavours in one measure. Some spices are hot, making your food spicy, others are not and will not add the heat factor. Spiced food does not necessarily refer to hot-spicy food. It can be rich with spices, yet without heat.




Take a look at the charts below and learn more about the most commonly used herbs...



Common Spice Blends include
  • BBQ Seasoning - used for BBQ Meats. 
  • Bouquet Garni   - used in stews, broths, casseroles.                                                    
  • Cajun Seasoning - Used with Meats.
  • Dry Rub- Used with Meats.
  • Five Spice Powder - Used in Chinese and Asian Cooking. also used with meats.
  • Herbes de Provence - Used with poultry, creamy pasta and soups as well as salads.
  • Italian Seasoning - Used in All Italian Cooking, like pizzas and Pastas
  • Lemon Pepper Seasoning - Used with Vegetable dishes and Poultry.
  • Mexican Seasoning- Used with Mexican Cooking.
 
Seasoning is one place in cooking that allows you to own a dish and be known for it. It is definitely the place to explore, experiment, and create your own flavours. The use a given spice can transform a dish completely, and make it a whole new one. At times even take the dish right into another cuisine! The more you cook and experiment with seasoning the more you will love getting to know the different herbs, spices, condiments and their intriguing flavours.
 
Always keep in mind: the aim of Seasoning is to complement the flavours of a given dish, to bring out the flavours of ingredients, or to add flavour. But it is never to overpower the flavours of the rest of the ingredients. With a little bit of experimentation and experience you will get it right every time!

Thank you for reading this post, keep at it, very soon you too will become a very seasoned cook. Would love to hear from you, so leave me a comment :)

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