You’ve got everything sorted and running smoothly for your dinner party: the pots are boiling, your vegetables are prepped and ready, the meat is sizzling… all that’s left to do is season. You pop off the lid and, instead of adding a pinch of salt, you add an accidental avalanche. You take a quick taste and you recoil—it’s not palatable at all! Your guests are going to arrive any minute, and you’re stumped. What can you possibly do to save your meal?
Next time you find yourself in this scenario (and it happens to the best of us), don’t panic. Try these tips for correcting and rebalancing the herbs and spices in your dish—and turn what would normally be a disaster into a delicious, tasty victory!
A good tip for protecting your dish from saltiness is to under-flavour during the cooking process and allow your guests to season to their liking. Another good idea is to season as you cook, so you get to have lots of taste tests! If adding some sugar or diluting an over-salted dish is not saving it, you may need to start again—or plant an extra-large bottle of water on the table!
So you got a bit chilli-happy, and now you’re paying for it. When it comes to spicy food, dairy is the best option for neutralising that spice quickly. If you’ve taken a quick nibble at your curry and your tongue is burning, you may want to try stirring in some dairy ingredients. A good example would be to add some spoonfuls of yoghurt or sour cream; this will help dissipate those spicy flavours and leave you with a milder dish.
Balancing Your Flavours
This should be your first go-to response for saving your dish. Balancing flavour can be tricky for novice cooks, but if you understand how flavours mesh together, you have a better chance of enjoying your hard work. You’ll need to play with sugars and acids such as lemon, vinegar, sugar and honey to get the best result for your dish.
For oversalted dishes, try a pinch of sugar to balance but don’t overdo it—too much and your dish will taste too sweet and will be a lost cause.
For over-spiced dishes, tame the heat by adding some zest. Surprisingly, acid can work wonders to reduce spice!
Dilute Your Dish
For liquid-laden dishes, such as broths, soups and curries, a great way to balance flavour is to dilute it! This can be achieved by simply adding water, unsalted broth, cream or coconut milk. Doing this will increase the volume of your dish, thereby diluting the flavour and making it much easier on the tastebuds.
If it does not make sense to dilute with liquid, balance your dish with neutral elements such a salad, rice or beans. These elements will help round out the flavour and create a more palatable meal for your guests.