If you ever scan a foodie mag or watch a cookery programme, you’ll read or hear mention of seasoning. It’s a term used to describe the use of ingredients that enhance the flavour and texture of food. That can be herbs and spices rubbed into meat to tenderise it, or salt added to boiling water to flavour pasta as it cooks. A lot of the character in many dishes comes from adding the right seasoning at the right time. One of the biggest mistakes is sprinkling on some salt and pepper at the end of cooking and thinking that’ll do the trick. To get really deep and complex flavours you really need to season (and taste!) throughout cooking to let the flavours penetrate right through.
The most commonly used seasoning is salt. But flavour can also be added with dried or fresh herbs like basil, oregano, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, thyme or dill. Matching herbs and spices to a range of different meats is a quick and easy way to whip up a delicious meal with no fuss at all. Seasoning food doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated – having a basic range of ingredients can make a huge difference.
- Add salt a little at a time – you can always add more but you can’t take it away once it’s in – but don’t be afraid to season boldly.
- Taste as you go. If you don’t try your food while it’s cooking you won’t know if it’s right.
- Dried herbs are best added early on in cooking so their flavour has plenty of time to infuse.
- Lemon is a great (but underappreciated) seasoning ingredient. If you feel your dish is missing something, add a squeeze of lemon juice before reaching for the salt pot. You might be pleasantly surprised.
- Pre-ground salt and pepper are handy but do get stale quickly, losing their pungency and power. By freshly grinding salt and pepper in a mill or pestle and mortar you can really make the most of their flavour.
Making a herby season-all for meat couldn’t be easier. Once you’ve mixed up a batch you can use it in marinades, rub it on chops or steaks before cooking, sprinkle it in a bolognese sauce or mix it into meatballs and burgers. This is how simple it is:
- 4 tsp ground sage
- 3 tsp ground thyme
- 1 tsp ground marjoram
- 2 tsp ground rosemary
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp white pepper
Mix all the ingredients together and place in a tightly sealed container. Store in a dry cupboard for up to 6 weeks.