Find the flavour

July, 2018

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A world of delicious tastes is out there, waiting to be discovered – who knows what you’ll find once you start exploring! If you’re trying to live a healthier lifestyle but aren’t sure how to get your taste buds on side, have a look at some of these ideas to help re-ignite a love of food.

1) Buy local and seasonal where you can

Much of the fresh produce we buy at supermarkets has been shipped from far away, which means it had to be picked before it was ripe, and even artificially ripened (tomatoes for instance are often picked green and later ripened with gas). The advantage is that we get to eat all kinds of fruit and vegetables throughout the year, which 50 years ago was unheard of. The BIG disadvantage though, is that the longer a fruit or vegetable stays on the vine, ground or tree, the more its flavours develop and the higher its nutritional value. So all the long-distance shipping and refrigeration means that fresh fruit and veg loses its flavour, and isn’t as good for you as it could be.

If you live somewhere within easy reach of the countryside, have a look round some local farm shops or markets to find fruit and veg grown near you. In supermarkets, check the country of origin on packs of produce to see if it’s British. Add to your choices of exotic fruit and veg to give you interest and variety alongside your home-grown heroes.

Different fruits and vegetables are in season throughout the year, so you can enjoy a variety all year round:

 Fabulous fruitsValiant vegetables
SpringRhubarbAsparagus
Cauliflower
Cucumber
New potatoes
Purple sprouting broccoli
Radishes
Savoy cabbage
Spinach
Spring greens
Spring onions
Watercress
SummerBlueberries
Currants
Loganberries
Plums
Raspberries
Strawberries
Tayberries
Aubergine
Beetroot
Broad beans
Broccoli
Carrots
Courgettes
Cucumber
Fennel
Peas
Garlic
Green beans
Lettuce and salad leaves
New potatoes
Radishes
Rocket
Runner beans
Tomatoes
Watercress
AutumnApples
Blackberries
Damsons
Elderberries
Pears
Plums
Quince
Sloes
Beetroot
Carrot
Celeriac
Fennel
Mushrooms
Kale
Leeks
Lettuce
Marrow
Potatoes
Pumpkin
Rocket
Squash (e.g. butternut squash)
Sweetcorn
Tomatoes
Watercress
WinterApples
Pears
Beetroot
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celeriac
Chicory
Fennel
Jerusalem artichoke
Kale
Leeks
Parsnips
Potatoes
Red cabbage
Swede
Turnips
2) Make your own ingredients

Making your own basic ingredients can be rewarding and it means you know exactly what has gone into them. This way you can avoid some of the salt, sugar and preservatives added by some manufacturers. You can also make sauces and stocks in bulk and freeze them for when you need them – just as handy as a jar in the cupboard.

3) Explore the world through spices

Fresh or dried, spices and chillies can give your food a real lift and it’s an easy way of adding loads of flavour without adding fat, sugar or salt. You might be a real heat fiend and adore nothing more than a fiery curry – or you might be a little nervous of “spicy” food and tend to avoid it. If you’re wary of spices, or want to try something beyond the usual fayre of your local curry house, why not try…

Mexican – chili made with beans is high in protein and fibre, fills you up, and if made at home can be as gentle or scorching as you like. If you’re not a big fan of veg, a chili is a good place to “hide” extra vegetables like tomato, peppers or sweetcorn. A squeeze of lime adds extra flavour without adding calories too. Recreate authentic Mexican flavours with chillies, avocado, cumin, fresh coriander, lime and paprika.

Middle Eastern – gently spiced and fragrant, Middle Eastern cookery uses lots of fresh ingredients. For example, a vegetable tagine with couscous and fresh mint is warming and filling any time of the year. Recreate Middle Eastern flavours with cumin, turmeric, caraway seeds, cinnamon, harissa, ras el hanout spice mix, fresh mint and paprika.

Caribbean – ranging from mellow warmth up to something with a real kick, Caribbean food is becoming more popular in the UK and easier to find. A satisfying mix of many influences from around the world, Caribbean food commonly involves rice, flat bread, chickpeas, beans, potatoes, goat, sweet potatoes and coconut. Traditionally it does contain a lot of fat, so make it yourself to cut down on oil and salt – although there is also a huge range of bright, sweet tropical fruits to enjoy as well. Fresh pineapple with a little sprinkling of finely chopped chillies is a real eye-opener. Recreate Caribbean flavours with Jerk seasoning, pepper sauce, mango, coriander, chillies, garlic and ginger.

Spanish – often echoing the gold and red of the flag, Spanish food has been influenced over the centuries by North Africa, embracing a world of spices yet always letting the main ingredient speak for itself. A lot of olive oil is used in Spanish cooking, however – while a little bit is good for you, it does still contain a whopping 900 calories per 100g, so use it sparingly. A paella made with a low-calorie frying spray, lots of fresh veg and brown rice can be a colourful, satisfying meal any time of the year. Recreate Spanish flavours with smoked paprika, garlic, chilli, saffron and tomatoes.

Chinese – Sichuan, Singaporean and Hunan styles of cooking are among the spiciest in the vast range of Chinese cuisines, but you don’t have to go as spicy as all that to get something really tasty and moreish. Chinese food can be supplemented with tons of delicious exotic vegetables as well – unlikely to be grown locally, but still a healthy addition to your repertoire. Think of baby sweetcorn, pak choi (similar to cabbage or spring greens), zingy spring onions, and peppers of all colours. Recreate Chinese flavours with reduced salt soy sauce, ginger, garlic, Shaoxing rice wine and chopped chilli.

 

4) Try different cooking techniques

Using the right cooking technique can make a world of difference to the flavour (and nutritional value) of vegetables and meat. Steaming vegetables rather than boiling can leave them with all their flavours and most of their goodness intact, for example, and a short cooking time is generally better than over-cooking.

Techniques that don’t add extra fat are worth looking at – instead of frying lean meat, try grilling at a low temperature, roasting or even barbecuing for that delicious unmistakable outdoorsy summer flavour. To keep it healthy, make sure meat is cooked through and doesn’t come into contact with the flames or coals. Add herbs, lemon or garlic to roasting veg and meat for a powerful depth of flavour that doesn’t pile on calories.

5) Don’t forget texture as well as taste

Eating food that’s all the same texture can get a bit boring. A bowl of porridge is a lovely, comforting start to the day, but it would soon lose its appeal if you ate it for lunch and dinner every day as well. Mixing up textures adds interest to your food, and can even alter your perception of the taste and how much you enjoy a particular food: who wants to eat squelchy strawberries, crunchy boiled potatoes or soggy crisps? Finding your preferred texture for different foods (“Would you like that crunchy, creamy, crispy or crumbly, sir?”) means you can derive the greatest enjoyment without adding so much as a grain of salt or sugar.

When food is fresh, at its best (i.e. in season and perfectly ripe) and cooked well, you don’t need to disguise the taste with salt and sugar, or deep-fry it into submission to make it palatable. The ingredients speak for themselves. Now, hands up if reading this article has made you feel hungry for some new flavourful experiences!