Can you please pass the salt? (+recipes)

By Grant Allen

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Plain or gourmet, salt adds flavour to all our cooking.

Salt is a constant in our lives, and you can enjoy it in a number of ways. Photo / Michael Craig
Salt is a constant in our lives, and you can enjoy it in a number of ways. Photo / Michael Craig

According to the book of Genesis in the Bible, Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt. This seems a strange punishment to inflict, given the historical significance of salt - it has always been one of man's most precious commodities.

Wars have been fought over it, and apparently the Great Wall of China was financed on the back of a "salt tax".

Salt is a constant in our lives; every first year chemistry student learns that sodium chloride is commonly known as salt. I add it to water for whatever I plan to boil, automatically season with it and put it on the table at meal times.

So what does salt do?

Here I defer to Glynn Christian. He is a bit of a guru to me and his Delicatessen Handbook is a publication I regularly refer to. Glynn has this to say: "Salt stimulates the taste buds of the tongue to discern what is inherently present ... but ... the more salt you use the more you taste the salt rather than the flavour."

Tricky! So salt is not only a seasoning, it is a tastebud activator and without it we don't really experience flavour. But it has to be used judiciously.

Recently it has become the latest ingredient to get the gourmet treatment. Many new labels have appeared on supermarket and deli shelves. They all have their own properties and are best suited to different uses.

Try out these interesting twists on a plain condiment:

* Salt crust snapper

* Pear and mozzarella salad with curried salt

* Preserved citrus and herby salt

* Salted chocolate biscuits

- Herald on Sunday

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