I use a fair amount of salt in cooking. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing (probably mostly the latter), it makes things taste better so I’m not going to completely stop using it anytime soon. And even when looking at the situation with my healthy hat on, knowing exactly how much salt I put in my home-cooking is better than not having the foggiest how much is in an average ready meal. But I’m not going to discuss salt today. Well, not too much. This post is going to be more about alternative seasonings – things that pack just as much punch as a pinch of salt, but with some additional extras to boot…
I’m not advocating eating it every day because eating bacon everyday would not only have a not-very-good effect on your heart and arteries but will also result in you going off bacon pretty damn fast and that would be a tragedy. But there’s no denying that bacon does have its uses in a budget kitchen – its cheap (obviously), it’s a good source of protein and, most importantly in the context of this post, its packed full of flavour and saltiness.
It’s mostly pasta dishes in which I use bacon as an ingredient – carbonara, with tomato sauce or in a creamy coating sauce – and one of the very best things about using it (apart from the flavour) is that fact that no further salt is required. Protein, deliciousness and saltiness – 3 things for the price of one. Budget yes, but also a thing of beauty.
Last night, I found that my fridge was a bacon-free zone. This was a shame because I wanted to make one of my favourite leftover roast chicken dishes that involves frying onion, bacon and garlic before adding peas, chicken and cream to create a lovely pasta sauce. Bacon is a key ingredient (for the seasoning reasons I mentioned above) so you can imagine I was a touch disappointed.
However, I did have some chorizo in the fridge and this has worked well as a sauce ingredient in the past so I thought I’d give it a whirl, albeit with a few reservations about the combination of chorizo and cream. Anyway, it worked well. Very well indeed. And I felt rather smug about it if I’m being completely honest. Whereas this chorizo didn’t have anywhere near the same amount of salt content as bacon (it was a cheaper supermarket brand – more expensive chorizo might offer a bit more in this respect), it can bring plenty to the table in the way of a subtle spiciness that really complimented the roast chicken flavours.
Like I mentioned earlier, I love using chopped up chorizo in tomato sauce – just fry it for a few minutes beforehand to release some of the flavour – it adds a richness and complexity with a ridiculous amount of ease.
Another ingredient with an undeniably salty tang is the anchovy. Yep, anchovies are a bit of a ‘marmite’ food for many but I love them, both as a pizza topping and as a way of adding seasoning to dishes. A classic use of anchovies is with roast lamb, pressing them into the joint before cooking but I’ve also chopped them up and stuck them in a meatball mix along with some fresh rosemary and lemon. It was rather nice, just in case you’re wondering.
But you know, watch that salt intake and all that. Everything in moderation etc etc…
*Fries up some bacon rashers*
*Takes another anchovy fillet out of the jar*