Dressings is one of those things that you don’t need a recipe for when you’ve got the basics locked down. By basics I mean your tastebuds can figure out when the dressing needs more of any of the 5 tastes.
Or, if you’re anything like my mum, and the complete opposite to me, you’ll measure everything to the point! I mean my mum uses a spirit level when measuring liquids in a measuring cup. Hahahah But I guess things can’t go wrong with that mindset 🙂
The 5 tastes
To have whoever eats your food go ooh and ahh and umm happens when the 5 tastes are perfectly balanced.
Here’s a little info about each taste plus the Umami:
For quick reference:
Bitter (chilli, coriander/parsley)
Sweet (avocados, tomatoes)
Sour (creme fraiche, lime)
Pungent (garlic, spices, raw onions)
Remember it’s all about balance and satisfying the taste buds. If you make your food too salty, you’ll end up craving sugar as a result. If you constantly eat sugary foods your body will crave salt. So the trick really is to keep your taste buds happy by trying to get it balanced just right.
This one has to be the least popular flavour. I mean it describes when someone is in a bad mood. Haha! I can’t blame anyone for this though. How often do you hear people go “O, I’m just craving something really bitter”? Not often I guarantee. Neither the less bitterness is equally as important as the other tastes.
- If a dish is too bitter, add salt.
- Bitterness helps to balance any cloying sweetness. Whether you eat a piece of chocolate with coffee or a compact apple pie with a bitter digestif, know that it’s these two tastes that make for a wonderful contrast of flavour.
- Great ingredients to add for a bitter taste are horseradish, escarole, arugula, radicchio, and dark chocolate, pink grape (juice) and beer.
To give a dish more depth, this taste, just like the salty one, is great. I always sweeten my curries with sugar or honey, my bolognese with ketchup and smoothies with dates if I find it too sour.
And why do we love the combination of sweet and salty so much? The sweet and salty tastes both signal an intake of calories to our brains, which means a, a happy brain and b, more energy.
- Add salt, sweet, sour, or bitter flavours if a dish has too much umami.
- Umami is best used to balance or round out a dish when something seems to be missing. Ingredients to add for more umami are Parmesan cheese, meat broths, soy sauce, tomato sauce, and mushrooms.
This is another flavour that perhaps gets forgotten a little too often. My BF claims he doesn’t like lemons or limes or vinegar, but he loves my cooking. Guess what, it’s because even the smallest addition of a sour ingredient, like a burst of lime, a splash of vinegar, or a swirl of crème fraîche, can brighten up a dish. *People often confuse sourness and bitterness, but the key difference to keep in mind is that sour flavours depend on acidity to give it that mouth-puckering taste. Keep this in mind while you are cooking, as it is easy to mistake one for the other. Pro-tip: Taste as you go along for a well-balanced dish.*
- When to use sour ingredients? Think about how a squeeze of lime adds pivotal flavour to what could be an otherwise bland guacamole or how it softens the spicy flavours of a taco.
- If you find you’ve taken that tanginess too far, adding a sweet ingredient like ketchup or a pinch of salt will help.
- Ingredients that add sourness are cultured dairy products like buttermilk and sour cream, lemon and lime, and vinegar.
Pungent taste is hot, dry, and light. It is found in certain vegetables (such as chilli peppers, garlic, and onions), and in spices (like black pepper, ginger, and cayenne). In small amounts, Pungent taste stimulates digestion, clears the sinuses, promotes sweating and detoxification, dispels gas, aids circulation, improves metabolism, and relieves muscle pain.
- Use sour and sweet tastes if your dish has gotten a little too ‘pungy’.
And then, of course, we have Umami. It wasn’t recognized as a real flavour on this side of the Atlantic until 1985. Umami is the savoury, earthy, meaty flavour that is naturally occurring and can be developed in others through slow cooking, ageing, drying, and curing. It falls into a taste category of its own, contributing that EXTRA that oomph to food that salt can’t necessarily provide by itself.
- If a dish is too sugary, use sour ingredients – like lemon juice and vinegar, as they will cut through and brighten the sweetness.
- Use sweet ingredients to take the edge off of dishes that are too bitter.
- Other ingredients to use as an alternative to sugar are honey, fruit, maple syrup, and dates.
Smoked paprika dressing
Dressing using all the 5 taste categories to create that umami feeling. Good in tacos, pitta breads, burgers, sandwiches, for BBQs and or to spice up a salad
- 1 cup creme fraiche (I used Oatly, but you can use normal with no problems)
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp Mexi-mix ((or a mix of cumin, ginger, cayenne, onion, garlic etc.))
- 1 1/2 tsp lime juice
- 1 dash chilli sauce
This is super easy and simple. Mix all ingredients well in a bowl and use your taste buds to get the tastes JUST right.
** wise words borrowed from Food52.com