For the love of salts
Not all salts are created equal. Each has a distinct taste and texture. While most people have collections of teas, coffees and spices in their pantry, I have a fairly robust collection of salt. In the past couple of years, I have moved countries way too often and hence, my stock depleted over a period of time. As a result, I am always looking to re-stock.
For my husband and I, salt has been a hands-down favourite. Some people may be surprised that for such epicures and culinary tastemakers, we don't have something more decadent, like foie gras or beluga caviar, as our guilty pleasure. But even those exotic ingredients are nothing without a little salt.
Funnily enough, early in our marriage, we were at opposing ends of the salt pole. While we both loved and appreciated different varieties of salt, we disagreed on the amount. I thought my food was fantastic until he would taste it and add a little bit more salt. I would get mad, then taste it, and then I would always concur, somehow, that the addition made it taste even better.
The truth is that salt really enhances existing flavours. Without salt, all the finest ingredients would fall flat. Even in baking, the best breads and cakes and pastries have a pinch of salt in them. Salt brings out the flavours not only in savoury dishes, but also in sweet ones. Even sour things taste better with salt. Think of a green mango, or some other green fruit like papaya. A little salt takes something sour or bland and makes it a tasty treat.
In the early years of my culinary career, I knew of sea salt and coarse salt and only used those in my cooking. However, my husband opened up my palate to whole new varieties of salts.
All salts taste different, have a different mouth feel and are differentiated as cooking or finishing salts. Here are some of my favourites:
Maldon Sea Salt Flakes
This is my hubby's favourite finishing salt and for good reason. Maldon Sea Salt is harvested in Essex, England, by hand and has a very flaky texture that is both delightfully scrumptious and beautiful to look at. The crystals look like gems on your food. The company has been owned and operated by one family for four generations and they are among the world's best saltmakers. It has no additives and natural with trace elements like calcium and magnesium.
Maldon Smoked Sea Salt Flakes
Take the original Maldon Sea Salt and cold smoke it with English oak... and voila! This is my favourite finishing salt. Add these to a boiled egg and you will instantly elevate the mundane to gastronomic heights. Blissful on seafood, poultry and meat, soups, sauces and salads.
Fleur de Sel
This is the perfect finishing salt to absolutely everything. I would save it for dishes with the finest of ingredients, including a salted caramel dessert or chocolate. It would seem like some of the world's finest salts are harvested in France, which should be no surprise as that is where the restaurant kitchen brigade was developed. The country is still heralded as the culinary capital of the world by many. Fleur de Sel is harvested by hand from tidal pools off the coast of Brittany in France. It is quite labour intensive and so the demand is greater than the supply, which translates to a very expensive salt. It is grey with a slight cool blue tint and is rather moist because of its high mineral content.
Himalayan Pink Salt
Now, this is pure salt. No other salt can lay that claim. It is my favourite cooking salt because of how sensational it is in taste, and is a brilliant finishing salt as well. It works best with seafood and meat dishes. Himalayan Pink Salt is also labour intensive, as it is harvested by hand from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan.
Celtic Grey Salt
A great all-rounder cooking and finishing salt on fish and meat, it can also be used in baking. It contains lots of minerals, as it is harvested from the tidal ponds off the coast of France. It is grey in colour and is pretty briny to the palate.
Hawaiian Black Salt
Hawaiian Black Salt is best used as a finishing salt for seafood. It is harvested from the volcanic rocks of Hawaii to which activated charcoal is added to give it that standout black colour. Best used in small doses.