Good Food Blog
A pinch of saltPosted at 11:11AM, 07 May 2008 by Mary Cadogan - Food writer
I popped down to the Dordogne last week for a couple of days to visit a cookery school near Sarlat. I discovered that of the 12 people on the course about half used no added salt in their cooking, mostly for health reasons. This came up as our chef/teacher used liberal amounts of salt in everything he cooked, including sweet dishes such as chocolate mousse.
Apparently, the recommended daily amount of salt in the diet is 6g, which is just over a teaspoon. Not much, when you consider that on average about 75 per cent of our salt comes from food we buy. So we can all cut our salt intake at a stroke by keeping off the ready meals.
But the problem is more complicated than that. We all know crisps are laden with salt, but it might come as a surprise to know that biscuits, bought cakes, pies, canned and packet soups, baked beans, breakfast cereals and even bread can also contain large quantities of salt. Worth thinking about as a third of the population of Britain suffers from high blood pressure, and reducing salt in the diet can help bring it down. Take a look at the nutrition info on food you buy - salt is usually labelled as sodium and given as an amount per 100g.
Chefs are notorious for adding salt. If you watch chefs cooking on telly they will add a liberal sprinkling of salt to dishes at every stage in the cooking process. When making a sauce, for example they will add a hefty handful to the stock, then a little more when it's reduced, then again when finishing it off. This gives the intensely flavoured dishes which we associate with restaurant eating, while not tasting overly salty. This is one reason why it's incredibly difficult to get home cooked dishes to taste like ones we eat in restaurants. Which is probably just as well, as if you eat out two or three times a week, your salt intake is likely to average out at considerably more than the 6g recommended, especially if you enjoy take away pizzas and ready meals the rest of the time.
As salt is a chemical we can wean ourselves off it to a degree. If you're used to adding plenty of salt to your cooking your palate will come to expect the taste of salt. If you cut it down gradually you come to expect it less and start to enjoy the pure taste of the food more. Of course a few things are unthinkable without salt. I couldn't enjoy a soft boiled egg without a light sprinkling of sea salt and new potatoes finished with a little coarse salt are so good. How about you?