Combining flavors

By Wild Chef Anders Klint on 2014.07.06 In Inspiration

I’ll give you cooking interested hikers some basic knowledge about combining flavors, so it is easier for you to understand why a recipe is composed in a certain way.

Sometimes good combinations are arising from a region or place simply because certain products or raw materials were available or produced in the region, such as wine and cheese, for example. Different countries and regions have their own specific dishes and drinks that have become valued combinations out of tradition and as a result of experimentation. In today’s international world we get impressions from all countries and the supply of raw materials is enormous. This can result in many funny new blends.

However, it is advantageous to have knowledge of some classic combinations in order to vary your own. It is your senses and your taste that determine whether something is good or not. Do not be afraid to experiment your own variants and compositions. An important rule of thumb is that food and drink will take the upper hand in taste, but both should be in balance.

When you want to experiment with different combinations, first taste and smell the raw materials and then consider how the raw materials change in different temperatures or when using different cooking methods. If the raw material is predominantly sweet in character and you want to break the sweetness with something spicy, the choices are endless, from white pepper to hot chili or even curry. Apple and curry, for example, is a classic combination, which leads to the supposition that curry should work together with pears or roasted root vegetables too.

With some experience of various experiments in the kitchen at home before a hiking tour, I hope that you will succeed in finding your own tasty combinations.

Balancing flavors

In order to find various combinations it is easier if you know what flavors a drink or food contains. There are two ways to balance flavors. One is to strengthen a flavor that’s a commodity, for example, to put a little sugar in the tomato sauce to enhance the tomato flavor. The second is to break off a taste, for example by mixing a little vinegar into the tomato salad to break the sweetness of the tomatos.

Basic principles for what breaks off or strengthens different flavors

It is the chef’s ability to bring together different ingredients that determine how successful the combination becomes, so it is good to know some basic principles for what breaks off or strengthens different flavors.

Sweet and fatty break off and mitigate saltiness. Spicy and hot are enhanced by the saltiness. Remember that all smoked products are quite salty.

Tart, sour, fatty, salty, bitter and hot/strong break off and mitigate the sweetness. Sweetness can also be enhanced by sweetness. The sweetness increases with the raw material’s maturity and according to where exactly it is farmed. If a commodity can grow slowly with a lot of sun, it also becomes sweeter in taste.

Sweet, fatty, spicy and hot/strong break off and mitigate the taste of something sour or tart. We usually want to round off raw materials that are tart with any of the aforementioned flavors. It is not entirely successful to serve a tart snack with a sour drink.

Sweet, tart and fat break off and alleviate bitterness. For our ancestors bitter taste was a sign of toxic raw materials.

Salt and fat enhance the taste of herbs. Herbs can emit a certain aroma and flavor also with sweet and tart.

Salt and fat enhance the spiciness. Spices with strong flavor, such as allspice, cloves, bay leaves and nutmeg, are difficult to mitigate if you happen to spice up too much. Some smoked chili varieties are also hard to tone down in case of over seasoning.

Sweet, tart and fat mitigate the taste of hot spices.

Alcohol and acid alleviate the feeling of greasy food. Sweet, spicy and hot mitigate the taste of fat. Salt enhances the flavor of fat.


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