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  • Writer's pictureAlexander Atlas

Freestyle Cooking #2: The Seasoning Triangle

Now that you know how to make a meal, your next question will probably be "How do I make it taste good?". Your food may be coming out bland, salty or a whole host of other issues which may discourage you from cooking. This is just part of the learning process, your food is gonna suck at first, just give it time. When looking into this, you may find a lot of biology papers and complex research on food science or the complete opposite, recipes that just say "use this" with no explanation. However, when you're freestyle cooking you don't have a recipe to follow or the full knowledge of the psychology of taste. All you need to know is how to balance, sweet, savoury & sour.

What this article covers:
  • The seasoning triangle - sweet, savoury, sour

  • How to fix a dish that's leaning too much to one side

  • How to season your food

What this article doesn't cover:
  • How to pair flavours

  • How to make your spice blends

 

Sweet, Savoury, Sour:

Tldr; All flavour is comprised of sweet, savoury, sour. Use a range of sweet, savoury & sour foods in your dishes to get the best-tasting meals. E.g. Veg = sweet, salt = savour, vinegar/citrus = sour.


All flavour is comprised of these three things, It's how our tongue registers good food. When all three are present and balanced, our brain lights up and says "YES!, THIS IS DELICOUS". That what fast food tastes so good, they hide a lot of salt, MSG & sugar in their food. That's also why your food doesn't taste as good; It's because you're not seasoning your food enough, you may think you are... but you aren't otherwise it would taste better than the takeout stuff.


This balance is present everywhere and that's what makes combination food so amazing. A great example is my quadruple chocolate cookie. The salt gives it the savour, the cookie base gives it the sweet and the chocolate gives it the sour. Yes, chocolate is sour. Don't believe me? Try some 80% dark chocolate, pure chocolate... yes it's bitter but there's also a sourness to it. It's subtle but it's there, and that's the first lesson.

 

How To Fix Over-Seasoning:

Tldr; If the triangle is leaning too much to one side, use the other ingredients to pull it back.


Sometimes, you just make a mistake. Maybe you went a little too salt-heavy or maybe the dish is just really sour. How do you fix this? Well, it's as simple as just following the triangle. The key is to add small amounts while tasting regularly to make sure you've got it balanced. This bit is just trial and error. It's okay if you don't get it right in the first 10 tastes, just keep adding more.


The dish is too sweet:

+ Add Salt & Acid



The dish is too salty:

+ Add Sugar & Acid



The dish is too sour:

+ Add Sugar & Salt




There is a catch though, the more seasoning you add the more overpowering it becomes to the dish. If you get to that point, separate the dish in half. Freeze one half and add more food to your other half.

 

Sour:

Tldr; vinegar, wines, chocolate, citrus, and coffee all add a slight sour element. Sour is the seasoning we're most sensitive to so be light when using it but don't skip it.

This is the subtle one, the one no one really thinks is there but without a bit of acid - your food will taste flat. Try to incorporate more sour aspects to your dishes in ways that don't overpower the dish. For example, use vinegar to deglaze the pan or drizzle lemon/lime juice over the top. Tomatoes are quite acidic which is why you find them as the base for so many sauces and curries. Vinegarettes on salads make the taste so much better because the veg is sweet & the meats/cheese are savoury. You need acid to cut through those flavours so it doesn't taste so homogeneous.

 

Savoury:

Tldr; spices, salt & MSG are your friend. Season each and every part of your dish along the cooking process and taste at the end if it's salty enough. If not, add more salt.

Salt everything. Every step of the way you should be salting your dish. Salt is good for you, it helps build the brain and prevent cramps, so stop being scared of it. If we get back to our last lesson, you should be salting your carbs, salting your meats and adding salt to your sauce (even if it's premade). Often there's not enough salt in pre-made sauces.

This may sound like a lot of salt and you may get worried about making your food too salty. Start by salting a little of everything, then add more salt until it's just at the point before it's too salty.

Then you'll balance it with sweet and sour. I'll cover this more in the next section.

 

Sweet:

Tldr; honey, fruit, vegetables & bread are all full of sugar and should be used in liberally throughout the cooking process. If you need something to be sweeter, try adding fruit or fruit juice before adding straight sugar.


Sugar is in EVERYTHING. This means you don't have to sprinkle the packet stuff on every meal. Veg is full of sugars and when cooked all those sugars begin to break down and sweeten the dish. You'll also find sugars in lots of sauces and condiments too. If we go back to tomatoes, you'll find they're very sweet when cooked down too. Again, this adds to why they're the base of most curries and sauces. Onions are another great example of this, when cooked low and slow, all those sugars break down and you're left with a jammy caramelised onion which is shockingly sweet.

Introducing more vegetables into your meals and cooking them down will help to naturally increase the sweetness of your dishes without dramatically raising your cholesterol.

 














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