Without a bit of salt to season our food we may end up with a bland, empty-tasting meal. Salt can be certainly referred to as the soul of many meals, it brings out the flavour of food, and you would be right if you said that without salt we may never experience the true taste of any particular meal.
But too much of a good thing can be bad. Our daily salt intake can be astounding because we use it to practically flavour everything we eat. Aren’t I right? Tell me one meal you’re cooking and you’re not sprinkling a pinch or scooping a spoonful of salt into it. From frying eggs to cooking yams to marinating meat, salt is our ever-constant base seasoning. And, in most cases, lots of it.
With rising cases of hypertension and heart disease, alternatives for salt, with less sodium, are filling up the supermarket shelves. However, there are natural seasonings that we can try out that give just about the same “soul” and bite to a meal that table salt gives.
So even if you’re not watching your sodium intake because of a health condition, you can impress your taste buds with some of these tips. Try out these natural and healthy substitutes in place of salt.
Fish: For fatty fish (like mackerel and catfish) they have a strong flavor that blends well with the hearty taste of curry, lemon pepper and garlic. For your white fish (like kote and titus) use plain low-fat or nonfat yogurt. Mix yoghurt with dill, ginger, and garlic, then add one tablespoon of mayonnaise per cup of yogurt to keep the yogurt from separating. Bama Mayonnaise is a great brand, the citrus flavour adds to the tanginess. Marinate your fish in this juicy mix, or you may serve with the fish as a sauce.
Beef: You can do more with your fresh fruit juices, did you know? Squeeze out the juice from a fresh pineapple and some oranges, mix with red wine, balsamic vinegar, chopped onions and/or crushed garlic (I’d use both if I were you). Marinate beef in this mix for about two to three hours.
Chicken: Discover another taste of chicken! Season chopped tarragon, basil, rosemary, garlic and oregano, and then cook or grill. Note: Grilling is an often neglected method of cooking here in Nigeria. But it’s practically the best, as it retains the original flavour of the food by cooking it in its own juices. You don’t need to go purchasing an outdoor barbecue unit, use your oven.
Stews: Ever wonder about the fascinating taste bay leaves give to your jollof rice? Try it out in your stews, add about two to three cloves to your pot of stew, and don’t forget to remove before eating. You can also add freshly ground black pepper, or use strong spices, such as cumin, turmeric and ginger in your stews.
Pasta: We usually need to add salt to pasta to flavour it and keep it from sticking together. Instead of adding salt while cooking pasta, keep it from sticking by using extra cooking water and a splash of cooking oil, preferably (flavoured) olive oil. Drain when it’s done, and don’t let the pasta cook dry in the pot. If you’re mixing sauce into the pasta, stir in the sauce just before it’s fully done and allow simmering for 1 to 2 minutes so the pasta absorbs all the flavor from the sauce.
Vegetables: For salads, use a homemade dressing: herb-infused olive or sunflower oil, champagne vinegar or vinegar made from sweeter fruits (pears and raspberries), and some parsley or tarragon. When steaming mixed veggies, instead of sprinkling salt to taste, add some freshly squeezed lemon juice. You can also simmer root vegetables, like carrots, in coconut milk mixed with curry.
If you’ve tried all these and you still can’t let go of your acquired taste for salt, and your body needs less of it, probably for health reasons, you might want to explore some other substitutes for salt with less sodium content, like Accent.
Explore various ways to flavour your meals and how you can use herbs like dill and basil to cook.. If you can’t find some of these herbs and spices mentioned in your local market, check out major super markets and shopping malls across the town. Shoprite is a great place to go.