A healthy balance of salt and other seasonings is key when cooking


The latest news on salt indicates that its consumption is not as detrimental to health as previously reported.

When you train as a chef, you’re constantly urged to taste and season. Seasoning refers to salt and to be honest some professionals can be heavy handed. I make no apologies for my love of salt but a healthy balance with other seasonings such as fresh herbs, seaweeds, citrus and chilli is what’s called for. 

I was cooking at the Clipper Race Food Festival in Derry/Londonderry last weekend and was given some Jordan’s salt to cook with. It’s a proper salt, desalinated from the Atlantic Ocean, off Donegal and contains none of the anti-cakers that regular table salt does.

Jane Hartnett, who makes oils in Waringstown, has also started making her own Dunsuivnish salt, but demand outstripped supply and she’s currently restocking. There’s a real appetite for good salt. You don’t need to use as much in your cooking and it’s so much purer on every level. If you boil a pot of potatoes without salt it’s going to have a massive impact on flavour. Tomatoes straight out of the greenhouse call out to be split open and sprinkled. 

The Bible sums it up for me from the book of Job, chapter 6: “Can which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?”

Government directives tell us to eat no more than a teaspoon of salt a day. The reckoning is that 75% of our salt intake comes from hidden additions in bread, cereals and ready meals.

Make your own bread and cook your own food is the answer. You’ll save a fortune and know exactly what goes into what you’re eating. I’d rather have a baked potato on its own than some hydrogenated ready meal, full of chemicals and deplete of nutrition. 

Ruairidh Morrison of North Coast Smokehouse smokes salt and dulse in Ballycastle. His smoked salt is a perfect seasoning for grills and vegetables but his smoked dulse is the best way to balance your salt intake. Don’t worry about it tasting fishy - I use it to season all meats, fish and vegetables combined with a limited amount of salt to a wonderful effect. 

Curing salmon is a brilliant way of prolonging its shelf life and imparting flavour. My first recipe this week is for a cured salmon with some whiskey and spicing – or just omit spices and liquor for a traditional variation. Salmon and warm buttered wheaten bread is one of my favourite things to eat. I’ve included my wheaten bread recipe – it has a touch of treacle but only a teaspoon of salt. Much healthier than anything you’ll buy and at a fraction of the price.

Salt caramel is one of those faddy food trends that’s been around for a while now. In essence it’s a sensible notion as the salt brings out the sweetness of the sugar.

I love a good éclair and my recipe this week is for one filled with a salt caramel crème patisserie. There’s a bit of work but home made choux is a thing of beauty and filled with the salt caramel cream, it’s lifted to new levels.