We seemed to be going full circle when it comes to the food we eat, as more and more people are seeing the value in cooking at home, rather than 'eating out' or buying in!
"Cooking at home is the best way to stay healthy (if you know how to cook!)"
For some of us though, cooking is the last priority. We either haven't been taught the immense value of cooking good nutritious food, or we don't have time to cook, or we become bored with our own cooking and crave not so great food.
Your answer is focusing on flavour! I'd love to introduce you to one thing that changed my food and my enthusiasm for cooking at home. That is, to not only cook food but focus also on adding maximum flavour to it!
You see your tongue helps you know if things are ready. It helps you tell if you need more salt. But most importantly, your tongue is your ultimate guide for deciding which ingredients go together. This may seem a bit 'pre-school' but you'd be amazed at how much you can 'up your game' in your cooking by just using flavour.
We can detect 4 different tastes: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Then the Japanese came along and discovered umami, or a “savory” taste (think soy sauce or mushrooms), making it five tastes.
Each of the five tastes gives your brain important information about what nutrients the food has to offer and whether the food you’re tasting is good or bad for you. It's a primal message our brain takes in.
So how does this whole flavour thing work?
Sweet foods tell your brain there are carbohydrates, or energy, in your food. Your brain loves energy, so it is hardwired to love sweet flavors. Babies actually prefer sugar water over breast milk.
Salty foods contain salt, which your body uses to maintain water balance. Water balance is essential for survival, so your brain loves when some (but not too much) salt is added to food.
Umami (the new one!) signals to your brain that there are amino acids in the food, which means protein. These are the building blocks of all the cells in your body and greatly needed for your gut health.
Sour food signals the presence of acid and fermentation, which are important to your digestion. Some vitamins, like vitamin C, also have a sour taste. Think Apple Cider Vinegar!
And bitter taste, well, that’s a mystery science still hasn’t figured out. Some have said that a bitter taste indicates the presence of small amounts of toxin that actually strengthens your body, a property called hormesis. One thing we know for sure is that bitter foods stimulate digestive juices to ready your stomach for digestion of food. Many of the healthiest foods––dark leafy greens, cacao, coffee––have a subtle and pleasantly bitter taste.
“I know this looks weird, but trust me, it tastes REALLY good!”
We've all heard this! Flavour is the art of combining these tastes with all of the other sensations that your brain can experience, such as aroma, texture, juiciness, mouthfeel and colour.
"When you're cooking, think of flavour as a balancing act"
If we were to follow the rules of the color wheel, our flavor wheel would look something like this:
Fattiness and sweetness are complements
Saltiness and acidity are complements
Both groups contrast each other
Bitterness… well, we’ll talk about bitterness later
Salt revives bland flavors as we know. Some love salt more than others. This can mean that you're adrenally fatigued (stress) and need a boost. Dehydration could be another reason.
If you’ve ever made a recipe and thought it was a bit 'gutless' it probably needed salt.
Salt contrasts well against the fattiness or sweetness of a dish and can also cut bitter flavors.
For example, chips taste good with salt on them because the salt and fat balance each other out.
People also love salted caramel because they contrast saltiness and sweetness. (When I make homemade chocolate I always add a pinch of sea salt to bring out the natural sweetness.)
Sweetness is one of our favorite sensations, but you have probably had the experience of eating or drinking something that is too sweet.
When working with sweetness keep in mind that you can balance it with sourness or acidity.
Think salad with fresh strawberries and vinaigrette.
Why do the strawberries and