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How do I learn to season well?

(19 Posts)
Sweetpotatocurry Tue 10-Nov-15 14:02:07

I know I sound daft, but I always end up making bland dinners...and I am tired of it, as are my family! I am a confident baker but have no confidence with cooking. Since having children I have always cooked from scratch, and obviously used minimal salt. I am happy using little salt as I don't miss it, but I guess I can start increasing it again now my kids are past the baby stage. When recipes say 'season' I just dont know how much to put in...and I have a weird thing about tasting, I never do it through cooking, I think it is my lack of confidence. Anyhow, I would like to give good flavour to my meals...I do the usual things, Bolognese, shepherds pie, roast chicken...but even my mash is bland! Are there any good websites or ideas for learning to season well? Thank you!

Highlove Tue 10-Nov-15 15:40:07

I think it just comes with practice...and getting into the habit of tasting, tasting and tasting again. I never used to add salt, kind of on principle, but then be frustrated that something I'd spent ages on was still bland. If in doubt, I take the entirely non-scientific approach of about 2-3 turns of the salt cellar per serving in the recipe. (Assuming no v salty ingredients.) And then taste.

villainousbroodmare Tue 10-Nov-15 15:53:30

Taste and add, stir, taste and add.
Remember that it's not just salt and pepper either... stock cubes or powder, soy sauce, butter, cheese, pesto, anchovy paste (all obv containing salt plus other things) and garlic, lemon, sundried tomatoes, spices and herbs all add lots of flavours.
I'd buy a few chicken Knorr Stockpots, a box of Maldon salt, whole black peppercorns, a chunk of Parmesan, a couple of lemons, a jar of decent pesto and a packet of sundried tomatoes and incorporate them into the above listed dishes you already cook.
Jamie Oliver is good on savoury flavours.

80sWaistcoat Tue 10-Nov-15 16:59:15

Don't be scared of salt. It's not the big evil anymore (that's bacon apparently...). The worst that will happen is that your meal will taste too salty and a cut potato stuck in for a while absorbs salt and makes it less salty.

Yes to all the flavourings in broodmare's post - as well as soy sauce, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, anchovies (they don't taste fishy when cooked), mushroom sauce - they are all essentially salt!

You do have to taste as you go along though.

You need to salt the skin of roast chicken in my opinion before you cook it otherwise it will taste bland. Mashed potato - for 4 put in 3/4 turns of salt mill and black pepper and a couple of teaspoons of grainy mustard.

Sweetpotatocurry Tue 10-Nov-15 17:24:09

Thank you all so much! I will start using your tips tonight.

villainousbroodmare Tue 10-Nov-15 20:42:02

If you're a confident baker, then you're very at home in the kitchen; you'll nail this. smile

Just looking at your user name... garam masala is a very handy thing in Indian cooking. It's a spice blend that unlike most, doesn't need to be cooked, so can be added to raw things like raitas and at the end of cooking to other dishes, when you taste and ponder what is needed to round off the flavours.

PolterGoose Tue 10-Nov-15 22:22:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

whois Wed 11-Nov-15 14:53:35

garam masala is a very handy thing in Indian cooking. It's a spice blend that unlike most, doesn't need to be cooked, so can be added to raw things like raitas and at the end of cooking to other dishes

How does that work then? Genuine question. As far as I understood, garam masala is just a mix of different spices. There is nothing special about it needed or not needing to be 'cooked'?

Qwebec Thu 12-Nov-15 01:41:23

I have not baught salt in years, neither I nor DP use it.

When I don't feel like thinking I use a few garanteed winners:
Anything that has tomatoes in it: italian herb seasoning.
at costco there is an organic mix that is fantastic and works with everything, so I'd suggest to go to a local shop and ask around for ready made seasoning.

my favorite combination is ginger-garlic-sesam oil-tamari it works with all veggies.
Pepper and/or sri racha are great to add depth

I don't taste either (don't like to), but I smell lots and ask who ever is available to taste for me. Learning to cook for me goes though trying a lot of recepies. It makes you understand what works (this week I learned how to make great salads like this), and gives lots of inspiration.
(My favorite website is epicurious because there is a great comment section with adaptations and useful comments in addition to the great rating system)

EastMidsMummy Thu 12-Nov-15 09:15:59

What do you mean "I don't like to taste."

atticusclaw2 Thu 12-Nov-15 09:28:17

MIL cooks without seasoning. Its the worst thing ever. Every meal tastes bland.

Start with salt and pepper and get that right.

Mashed potato for example. MIL takes potatoes, boils them, mashes them (with a bit of water) and serves them. I take potatoes, boil them, mash them with butter (always salted), salt, ground black pepper and possibly a little milk or cream if they're very stiff but the butter usually deals with that. Its like a different food.

Roast potatoes, MIL peels potatoes cooks in oil and serves. I cut potatoes, par boil, fluff up, coat in semolina, sprinkle liberally with sea salt and black pepper and sometimes some rosemary or some garlic and cook in lard.

80sWaistcoat Thu 12-Nov-15 10:07:01

I don't quite understand how people can cook with salt. Fish cooked without salt would be so bland - add as much herbs, spices, lemon juice, olive oil as you like (and I do). But the salt is what just finishes it. Humans need salt.

Not as much as there is in highly processed food - but you'd be hard pushed to add that much at home.

80sWaistcoat Thu 12-Nov-15 10:07:27

PS atticus' roast potatoes sound fab.

villainousbroodmare Thu 12-Nov-15 16:25:16

Whois, the spices in a garam masala are toasted before they are ground. That's what allows you to use it to finish a dish. If you just chucked in ground cumin and coriander & Co. at the end of cooking, it would taste raw.

Qwebec Sun 15-Nov-15 00:12:40

Was it me you asked? I don't know why I don't like to taste, I've always been like that, my family taste for me. When it is in my plate I'm quite happy to eat it but until then it's not yet food?
Regarding salt: a relative was a chef for years and is an incredible cook, he rarely ever uses salt either. I don't cook fish (I do the raw salmon recepies) but DP has an amazing cooked salmon recepie, I'll ask him how he does it when he comes home. smile

MyCatHasStaff Sun 15-Nov-15 00:23:44

Seasoning is really about confidence, but that comes with experience. Try this to get started. Make a batch of something you cook regularly, say bolognaise. When you get to the simmer stage, split it into 2 or three batches. Add half a stock cube to one batch, more salt than you would usually use to another, and worcester sauce (just a few drops), or red wine or even a little cocoa powder to another. Taste them all so you can compare what effect each change has had.

WelshHairs Sun 15-Nov-15 00:28:28

Qwebec when you say you don't use salt - do you literally cook with no salt whatsoever? Most food without salt is bland. You can add as much pepper and lemon and spices and herbs as you like, salt is what brings out flavour.

Qwebec Mon 16-Nov-15 22:58:27

It's not that I ban salt from my kitchen, I just rarely need it. I make gravlax a few times a year obv. salty. I sometimes use low salt soya sauce/tamari, that's salty. But I'm heavy handed in other things: ginger, garlic, sri ratcha. I use fresh herbs when ever possible. Limes are also fantastic, but not very good for the teeth sadly. But If I follow an english (as in anglophone) recepy I often have to double the amount of spices to get a proper balance. So maybe it is a cultural cultural to add lots of salt and less of the reste?

I asked DP his fish recepy: salmon and veggies in aluminum foil + none creamy vinaigrette (store baught or home made) 40min in th oven. He did point out that we cook salmon, or trout but never the white fleshed fish (not very popular where I live) so it would not work with those.

best lamb recepy no salt

amazing chicken some salt (I but less salt, but more ginger)

TesticleOfObjectivity Mon 16-Nov-15 23:07:11

Doesn't mustard (in the first recipe) usually contain salt, and the second recipe has salt and hot sauce which will contain salt. I thought vinaigrette usually contained salt too.

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