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  • Writer's pictureAlexander Atlas

Freestyle Cooking #4 - Pairing Flavours & Seasoning

Updated: Nov 5, 2023

The most underutilised tool when I see beginners cooking is flavour pairing and seasoning. Now you know how to make a completely new meal, how to make it taste good and how to make it easily... how do we mix it up? How do we turn meals from simple to spectacular?


Understanding Flavour Pairings:

Much like with colours, you have complimenting and contrasting flavours. We already covered contrasting with the Seasoning Triangle, what about complementary? These flavours work together to change the profile of a dish while keeping the dish itself the same. Take our chilli con carne & cottage pie example from last time. Let's take the pie but put the flavours of the chilli con carne into it. Mix some cumin, coriander and lime into the mash. Replace the peas with sweetcorn & add a Mexican seasoning mix to the minced meat sauce. You have yourself a chilli con carne pie recipe completely made by you!

Pirates of the Caribbean had the "pirate code" and when prompted repeatedly in the film, characters would often say "They're more like guidelines." This is exactly how you should approach the meals that you're cooking. Recipes should be treated as guidelines, but you can mess around with the flavours in the meal as long as they pair well.

If you'd like a guide to flavour pairings I would recommend checking out Flavorfox for their amazing pairing. Their tool covers both sweet & savoury dishes and has allowed me to make incredible meals with foods I never thought would work together. However, the only real way to know if flavours will pair well is to just try it out. Taste is completely subject and in theory, those flavours should mix, in practice you may just not like that pairing.

Some essential flavour pairings you should learn are:

Red Meats:

  • Peppercorns

  • Mustard

  • Red wine & Balsamic

  • Hard Cheese - e.g. Gouda, Edam, Cheddar, etc.

​White Meats:

  • White wines- typically Sauvignon Blanc

  • Cream

  • Parsley

  • Nutmeg


  • Lemons

  • Dill

  • Vinegar

  • Olive Oil

Root Vegetables:

  • Onion

  • Garlic

  • Bay Leaves

  • Butter

Leafy Vegetables:

  • Garlic

  • Soft Cheese - e.g. Feta, Mozzarella, etc.

  • Tomatoes

  • Honey

Stone Fruits:

  • Red Meats

  • Root Veg

  • Yoghurt

  • Honey

Citrus Fruits:

  • Oregano

  • Olive Oil

  • Soy

  • Cinnamon

Tropical Fruits:

  • Corriander

  • Avacado

  • Chillies

  • Ginger

  • Citrus


Spices & Sauces:

Now we have already covered sauces but I would like to cover it again with spices in mind. 1 sauce and make a thousand different meals just by adding different spices or sauces to it. Take a basic tomato sauce, you can do nearly anything with it. Just by changing the seasoning, you can turn it into an array of different curries, soups & stews. You can put it on pizzas, in sandwiches, pastas, potatoes etc. and have a different-tasting meal every time by just using different spices.

I will admit there is a stigma against using spice mixes in the culinary industry, and I often fall into that camp. However I do also truly believe that using pre-made spice mixes is completely worth it for the beginner cook. It will be more expensive in the long run than having your options but we're worried about convenience here not cost. So by all means, buy pre-made spice blends if it means you try and diversify your palette.

Always keep a cabinet of spices ready for any time so you can whip up a new-tasting dish every day if you want.

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