Today I asked my friend Fran Allen to provide her best tips for making food taste great. Fran is a fellow Holistic Nutritionist and amazing cook. Her vibrant food photos on Instagram always inspire me to cook, and although her meals look gourmet they include quite simple ingredients.
I asked Fran to break down how she flavours her meals and turns a plate of simple ingredients into something delicious. I believe that when we learn the basics of seasoning and flavour, we can turn even the most (seemingly) mundane meals into something super tasty. So, with that, here is Fran!!!
Flavour Hacks with Fran Allen, CNP
Clients ask me all the time, how I make my food look and taste so good. I come up with a lot of my meals on the fly and use what I have around but stick to these rules to make sure every dish tastes balanced and flavourful. Here are my four flavour hacks to add more flavour and interest in your home cooking!
If you feel that your food tastes bland, or like ‘nothing’, chances are it needs more salt.
Adding a pinch of salt to salads and cooking grains does wonders for making foods taste more intense and flavourful. I always keep a few different varieties on hand
Sea Salt: I use this most commonly for salting cooking water when cooking grains, pasta or blanching vegetables. This is a stronger, saltier flavour than grey or pink salt
Pink Salt: I use this for more delicate dishes like salads, and dressings. This helps give a delicate flavour without overpowering.
Flakey Salt: These flakes are great for adding a big salty flavour and crunch to dishes, these are called finishing salts and are to be used at the very end of cooking or right before eating! These are perfect for topping chocolate cookies, roasted vegetables and avocado.
Other great ways to add salt to dishes are through salty foods like seaweed, olives, capers and hard cheeses like parmesan. These all add amazing depth of flavour and help to support the other ingredients in your dish.
If you feel like your meal kind of just hits one note and feels kind of heavy, adding a sour element helps to lighten and brighten your dish. Think about adding a squeeze of fresh lemon onto a plate of steamed vegetables to give them an instant lift! I always like to have several options to add some tangy sour flavour to a dish
Citrus: Adding lemon, lime or even grapefruit to a dish helps to brighten any meal. I find these work well at bringing fresh flavour to cooked vegetables and grains. Make sure to add the zest to add deeper flavour.
Vinegar: Vinegar is great for roasting vegetables, making dressings, and adding a tartness to rich soups and sauces. I love having apple cider, red wine and balsamic vinegar on hand.
Pickles: An easy way to add interest to a salad or grain bowl is to throw in some pickles! I love adding kimchi, kraut or full-sour pickles to my meals. They add a funky, sour flavour and also help to improve digestion!
In order to have a fully balanced dish, you need a tiny bit of sweetness. It may not be the most forward flavour but it will your dish sing! These flavours work so well to keep you palate in balance and help to ease sugar or dessert craving later on. A subtle sweetness makes a meal feel more complete.
Sweet Vegetables: Squash or sweet potato help add great flavour and work well with greens like kale, arugula and watercress to balance their strong flavours.
Sweeteners: Honey, maple syrup and agave add caramelization to veggies and help to balance spicy flavours in curries and dressings.
Fruits: Apples, pears, pomegranates, dried fruits like raisins, dates and apricots and interest to grains and salads. I love adding shaved apples to morning oats or pomegranate seeds to a quinoa salad. They add a burst of sweet, tart, juicy flavour.
Almost everything tastes better with a good drizzle of nice olive oil. Fat has an amazing ability to actually improve our perception of flavours and add a richness to dishes. Fat coats our mouths, allowing flavours to concentrate and last longer. Fat is also an important nutrient to help improve satiety and keep us feeling full and satisfied by a dish.
Nuts and seeds: Things like walnuts, tahini and peanut butter add rich flavour and creamy texture to dishes.
Oils: Coconut, sesame, chili, and olive oil all add a delicate flavour to dishes and help to enhance the overall flavours of stir-frys, stews and curries.
Butter and Ghee: These add a rich, salty flavour to dishes and are great for adding crisp texture to roasted foods like veggies and meats.
Coconut milk and yogurt are great for adding to soups, stews and curries to add depth and richness, they also help to dissipate heat for more sensitive palates.