How to ‘Season to Taste’

At the risk of sounding a bit geeky here, I’m a huge fan of Bryan Tracy. If you haven’t heard of him, he’s a motivational speaker and author of some great books such as ‘Eat Your Frog’.

For the last few years around December, I’ve been setting aside some time to review the year and plan for the upcoming one. As part of my review process I make some time to reread my favourite Bryan Tracy book, ‘Goals!’.

Actually, I say ‘read’ but in truth I ‘listen’ to it as I’m a huge fan of listening to audio books while I’m walking or running. And if you’re interested in reading more books I highly recommend checking out audible.com… but I digress…

One of the key themes in the book is to identify the ‘one skill’ that if you were to master it, would have the biggest impact on your work or personal life.

It’s a great question to ask yourself from time to time.

And if you wanted to think about it from a cooking perspective, the one skill that really has the biggest potential isn’t how to handle a knife or ‘plate up’ dishes like a chef.

No. The most impactful skill is seasoning.

It’s what separates the so-so cooks from the ones who are always getting rave reviews from their family and friends.

So when I saw this question from Marlene come in to my Stonesoup-by-request survey, I realised it was about time we had a talk about seasoning.

How does one know how much salt to use, in say, soup for instance? “Season to taste,” at the end of any recipe is hard to measure. Thank you.
Marlene xo

Exactly how do you ‘season to taste’?

As someone who writes recipes for a living, it’s impossible for me to tell you exactly how much salt you should be adding to any given dish on any given day. Because it’s a moving target.

Not only will your ingredients be slightly different from mine, they’ll change from time to time. Even if you’re buying the same brand of soy sauce, it won’t taste exactly the same every time.

And there’s another reason. My taste buds are different to yours.

I could give you an estimate or tell you how much I have used. But I don’t.

It’s not because I’m being lazy. It’s a conscious choice.

I say ‘season to taste’ because that’s what I really want you to do. To taste the food, and decide if it could be better. If you think it can, then add some salt. And repeat until you’re happy.

It’s that simple.

I want to empower you to take command of the seasoning. To experiment. To back yourself.

I know it’s a skill that YOU can master. It just takes practice.

My number one tip for seasoning to taste

Apart from encouraging you to get in and practice, the only advice I have is to err on the side of ‘less is more’. You can always add more salt but it’s almost impossible to fix things when you go too far.

Even now, I keep a pot of sea salt and a pepper grinder on the dining table so we can tweak at the table.

Like to go deeper with this?

Then check out the following two articles on Stonesoup…

1. The absolute beginners guide to the art of seasoning

2. A beginners guide to the art of seasoning – the importance of sweet & sour

hot chorizo & creamy ricotta salad-2

Hot Chorizo & Creamy Ricotta Salad

There’s something about the contrast between hot spicy pork products and cool creamy ricotta that gets me super excited!

I prefer to use dried chorizo rather than their fresh sausage counterparts, but either will work here really.

Enough for 2
2-3 chorizo, sliced
250g (1/2lb) cherry tomatoes
1 red capsicum (bell pepper), sliced
2 generous handfuls creamy ricotta
4 handfuls baby spinach leaves, washed

1. Heat a little oil in a frying pan. Add chorizo, tomatoes and capsicum.

2. Cook, stirring every now and then on a medium high heat until chorizo are browned and cooked through.

3. Taste. Season.

4. Serve chorizo mixture with ricotta on the top and the baby spinach on the side.

VARIATIONS
dairy-free – replace ricotta with a nice hummus or some mashed avocado.

vegetarian – replace the chorizo with a drained can of chickpeas and 2 teaspoons smoked paprika. Add in a little chilli if you like it hot.

vegan – combine the dairy-free and vegetarian options.

tiny person friendly – replace chorizo with your favourite sausages or mild chorizo.

budget / more substantial – add in a can of chickpeas, beans or some cooked pasta to make the dish serve more people.

With love,
Jules x
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{ 7 comments }

April March 11, 2014 at 5:17 pm

But in some of your recipes, you tell us to season something that shouldn’t be tasted, like raw meat. What to do then?

Miriam Kearney March 13, 2014 at 7:23 am

I remember reading some time ago that ‘salt to taste’ does not mean “to make it salty enough” but rather it means to add enough salt that the other flavours are more pronounced. I also read (maybe here on Stonesoup) that sometimes a splash of vinegar or lemon juice is what’s needed, not more salt when something tastes bland or unfinished. This weekend, my cauliflower soup tasted bland and a friend suggested a splash of lemon or lime juice (we chose lime just to see what it would do). Well it took 2 splashes but the soup was terrific.

Carl Joe Wright March 13, 2014 at 11:44 am

Hot Chorizo & Creamy Ricotta Salad looks great.. Never taste such food,, Hope that in Kiama Australia I can taste such food. Thanks for sharing.

Katherine March 29, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Hi Jules, chorizos come in lots of different sizes (where I live anyway!) so I wondered if you could give an approximate weight to how much chorizo you think a ‘serving’ should be? Thanks!

jules April 4, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Great question Katherine – around 200g (7oz) would be a good place to start :)

barry Ozmo March 31, 2014 at 7:29 am

the important point about tasting just before serving while the food is hot (this doesn’t apply to cold dishes/warm)is that the salt will dissolve into the food with a quick stir.let me give you an example of failure to do this can result in over salty food.there is a certain indian chain that uses bain- mares to present their food.now if you buy it and eat it straight away you will think it seems fine other than being just warm.however if you take it home and heat it up, the food becomes extremely salty.you will never go back there because of this disappointment.they are salting at too low a temperature.i’m sure jules can offer some insights from her past commercial experiences.

jules April 4, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Great point Barry!

Yes temperature does impact how we perceive different flavours so always best to taste and adjust at the temperature you are planning to serve at :)

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