We all know that using too much salt in our cooking is not necessarily healthy thing to do. But how do we realistically reduce the use of salt, when things taste so much better with it than without it? My own taste buds are not that sensitive to flavours as a result of having too much penicilin and antibiotics when I was little, so I’ve always been adding (probably) far too much salt in my food.
The last two years, I’ve been cutting down on sugar in my diet and food groups that my digestive system can’t cope with. As a side effect, I’ve noticed that my taste buds become much sharper and I can taste more delicate flavours than before. I’ve also started to experiment with different types of salts, sea salts and flavoured sea salts. Because I have to be careful about onions and garlic now, I’ve started to use more herbs in my cooking and I’ve noticed that their flavour is enough without the extra ‘flavour’ from the salt.
I’m just saying this to give you a bit of a background, because it looks like our taste buds can be trained in relatively short space of time. I’ve noticed the difference within 2-3 months of switching everything around.
Anyway, lets now focus on swapping at least some of that salt in our cooking with herbs!
Probably my favourite herb, since I’ve been using it instead of onion in most recipes now. You can easily buy fresh chives and keep them growing in a pot in your kitchen or a windowsill. I’ve also bought dry chives and they are the perfect back up, when you run out of fresh ones.
Chives are perfect to sprinkle on top of omelettes, boiled potatoes, soups or anywhere where you would normally use onions.
Lovely, sharp and fresh flavour, basil is perfect addition to pasta bakes, soups, omelettes, salads or pizzas. Basil has slightly lemony flavour and it’s best to use as a fresh herb. Saying that you can also buy dry basil leaves (or dry them yourselves).
Rosemary has quite a strong flavour (a sort of woody, lemony flavour), but because of that it ads amazing flavour to your food. It’s best with stews, meats or roasted potatoes, but you could also add a bit to vegetable soups. I would always add a few stems in to flavour the dish, but probably not eat it afterwards. Rosemary is strong enough to infuse your food without eating it.
Thyme is delicate alternative to salt with a hint of lemon essence. It’s perfect for dishes that are light, like potatoes, omelettes or soups. The easiest way to use thyme is to add a few little leaves to your meals as you are serving them.
I think you need to be a bit careful with mint. It’s a good strong flavour, but it doesn’t go with everything. The best combinations are with lemony or fresh flavours, for example summer salads or strong flavours like roasted meat. Anything in between could be a bit of a hit and miss, but it also depends on your own taste buds.
Another strong flavoured herb, which is perfect for replacing salt in food. It’s great for meat stews and more heavy flavoured foods.
So, there you go! Hopefully this gives you an idea on how to start replacing some of the salt in your food and use more herbs in your cooking.
I think it’s hard to completely replace salt with herbs instantly, so start gradually and don’t feel like you are failing if you add a bit of salt. What worked well for me, is to make the dish without any salt, then add the herbs, taste it and at least have a few mouthfuls before adding any salt. After few meals, I realised that I wasn’t adding as much salt as at the beginning, which encouraged me to carry on.
My final tip for, which works all the time, is to keep your salt in a cupboard and not on your table. By the time I cook the dinner and sit down, I’m too tired and hungry to go back to the kitchen and get the salt!
Hope it works for you too!