In general, I’ve always harbored an old-fashioned suspicion of the many ‘easy’ and ‘convenient’ flavorings available on the supermarket shelves. Instant sauces and mixes have never been my thing and on each occasion that I’ve used them just because someone left the box behind, I’ve always ended up throwing the results in the bin. Once you get used to seeking out the real flavors in true ingredients, food that is flavored with highly processed substances just doesn’t taste right.
In so far as health goes, there have long been scares about the effects of flavor, color, texture and preservation additives in food. Now that information is becoming increasingly well-researched and specific. The publication in Sweden of “Den Hemlige Kocken: Det Okända Fusket med Maten På Din Tallrik” (The Secret Chef: The Unknown Cheating with Food on Your Plate) by cancer survivor Mats-Eric Nilsson is a food tsunami that will hopefully leave the food industry in Sweden changed forever. This book reveals that 9 out of 10 of the additives that we regularly consume are cosmetic. That is to say, that we don’t really need them. Many are plainly not good for us to consume. The cancer survivors that I know are on the lookout for most of them and look at those stock cubes that we regularly throw into our recipes to create flavor with horror. In times when we need to think seriously about the environmental effects of our consumption patterns, these unnecessary additives which require considerable energy to process and turn into something that we can use should come into question.
When it comes to stock cubes, I am guilty. I have provided recipes using these in the past but this has been one of my few evils which it comes to recipes. Now I am repenting by giving you some of my best ideas about how to flavor food without stock cubes. During the past months, I have made divine soups and sauces without a stock cube in sight. Give it a go. It is an interesting and very worthwhile journey.
How to Find Real Flavor
Dried & Fresh Herbs & Spices: Familiarize yourself with the wide range available and what types of foods they fit best with. Use them generously. If you live in a cold climate, try to go for the dried herbs in the winter. It is kinder from a climate perspective. Strong spices such as ginger, garlic and chili can easily transform a dish. Learn to use them. Use spices in non-traditional
Lemon & Lime: These can work wonders in terms of flavor, providing a tangy acidity. If you need to watch your salt, note that lemon and lime juice are a salt substitute. Using the rind (do remember to wash well before using it) adds a strong flavor punch to your dish.
Make your own stock: Keeping a good, strong vegetable stock on hand in the freezer can be a great way to add flavor. Cover some chopped carrots, parsnips, onions, pepper corns and bay leaf with water. Cover and cook on slow heat until the vegetables are soft. Add salt. Drain the liquid into freezer containers that you can defrost for use in making soup. Note that the liquid left over when you prepare mussels makes an excellent fish stock (although watch out to inform those that are allergic to shellfish).
High Quality Ingredients: The flavor that you can generate in a dish depends most of all on the quality of the basic ingredients – vegetables, meats and fruits – that you use. Transfer your budget for highly processed food flavorers to the best quality ingredients you can find and you have just taken one gigantic step towards finding the real flavor in food.
Keep your Pepper Grinder sharp and use good quality flake salt.