From the pages of Eatstreets

Author: Fritz Gubler & David Glynn with Dr Russell Keast

Publisher: Arbon Publishing

RRP: $34.99 Paperback with flaps

The Salt Book

04 August 2010.
Reviewed by Stephanie Clifford-Smith

The title of this book alone might be enough to send hypertensives screaming from the room, but it shouldn’t. It begins from the premise that salt is an almost magical substance that makes the flavours of just about everything else come alive. Here, here. But it doesn’t shy from the health implications of eating too much of it. Early on, if you’re motivated, you can find the National Heart Foundation’s recommended maximum dosage and read that around three-quarters of the salt consumed comes from processed food. Goodo, now to the interesting stuff.

The huge variety of salts, their origins and uses is surveyed and among instructions for the perfect steak, gravlax and flavoured salts there are lots of intriguing recipes as well. I’m the sort of cook who’s happy to put salt into just about anything, justifying the practice with the argument that I don’t eat much processed food. So once I saw the recipe for chocolate mousse (actually more a ganache) drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Maldon salt, I was in. I’ve tried the salted butter caramels — heavenly — and the smoked chilli salt, but there’s plenty more to experiment with.

Particularly interesting is the chapter on the physiology of taste. It explains how salt makes things taste better and why foods that are largely water such as soup are relatively tasteless unless well salted.

Salt’s role in preservation for the past 7000 years, the authors argue, is the basis of civilisation as we know it. “Without preservation techniques, agriculture on any scale is a pointless exercise, and without agriculture mankind would have remained as nomadic hunter-gatherers,” they write.

A fascinating read as well as a useful cookbook.

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