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Ingredient watch

Salts of the earth (and sea) T

here is something magical about salt. But it is a magic that is easy to overlook. Salt is so common, so familiar, that we barely notice the remarkable properties it possesses. The one thing we do notice, however, is its absence. As Thomas Keller, one of the world’s great chefs, says, without salt the taste of food is flat ... insipid. Salt makes flavours come alive, makes them “sparkle”. Salt comes in many forms, a fact that is profoundly important when it comes to cooking. Because a teaspoon of table salt will contain more salt by weight than a teaspoon of fleur de sel, it will therefore be saltier. This is why we need to know our salt.

Fleur de Sel Fleur de Sel, the “flower of the salt”, is the name used for salt that has been raked by hand from salt ponds surrounding certain villages in France. It is harvested from May to

September, when artisan paludiers patiently wait as the shallow pools of water in the salt ponds evaporate, creating the prized salt crystals. The ponds are the same ones where the coarser sel gris is harvested, but for every 40 kilograms of sel gris produced, only about 1½ kilograms of fleur de sel is harvested. The salt itself is white, although it can acquire a pinkish hue, and has long been prized by chefs and gourmets for its high quality. Light, flaky and with a pure, slightly mineral taste, fleur de sel is perfect for finishing dishes, either in the kitchen or at the table.

Red, black and blue salt As pure salt is pure white or even translucent, the colours they gain are from natural elements incorporated into the salt crystals as they are produced.

Sea salt Sea salt is a generic term for unrefined or minimally refined salt, usually containing many of the trace minerals found in sea water as it has been naturally evaporated from a living ocean, sea or bay. Sea salt is typically unrefined,

so the minerals it contains may include iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc and iodine. These contribute to its bright, pure, clean flavour, which many consider carries the tang of the ocean. Less delicate – and less expensive – than fleur de sel, sea salt is perhaps the ideal general-purpose salt, suitable for nearly all uses in the kitchen, particularly if you keep both a coarse and a fine-grained version on hand.

Rock salt The term rock salt applies to any salt that has been mined from salt deposits on or under the ground. This definition may also apply to salt which has been extracted from underground deposits by dissolving it in water, pumping the brine to the surface and then precipitating the liquid back into salt. Rock salt comes in a variety of sizes and, because it is cheap, can be used for anything that requires salt in large quantities, such as baking anything in a bed of salt.

Grey salt Sel gris, “grey salt”, usually refers to the grey sea salt that is hand harvested with wooden rakes in the traditional method. A moist, unrefined sea salt produced along most coastal areas of France, it is typified by a light grey, slight purple tinge, which comes from the clay found in the salt flats. 20   Open House, June 2010    www.openhousemagazine.net

Mildura, Victoria, which is pumped to the surface through the mineralrich soil, absorbing nutrients as it goes. The brine is evaporated first by the sun, then mechanically, producing a uniform flake salt.

Because it comes from France, sel gris is a little more expensive than local salt, but it is still an ideal allpurpose salt. It is unrefined, so it contains a range of minerals and the evaporation process leaves it slightly moist, meaning it can be easily handled with your fingers. A cheaper alternative to sel gris is Korean grey salt. It is a similar in texture, colour and taste, though it will generally be drier than sel gris.

Pink salt The colour comes either from the minerals that are bound in with the salt crystals, or from a saltloving bacteria that produces a red carotenoid pigment, providing a valuable source of beta-carotene. Pink salts come most frequently from inland areas, where deposits have been left by the evaporation of prehistoric areas. Himalayan pink salt, Peruvian pink salt and Australia’s Murray River pink salt are perhaps the most popular varieties. Both the Himalayan and the Peruvian salts are mined from pure salt deposits that lie high in the mountains, and they both possess the rich, mineral flavour that is common to pink salt. Because they are mined rather than evaporated, the crystals are substantial, and contribute a definite “crunch” to dishes on which they are used. Murray River pink salt is sourced from an underground aquifer near

Hawaiian ’Alaea salt is almost red; these salts take their name form the iron-oxide rich red volcanic clay, called ’Alaea, that gives them colour. These are claimed to have the highest concentration of trace minerals and elements of all salt. Authentic ’Alaea red clay will cause a fizzing reaction when added to a liquid, and imparts a subtle mellow flavour to the salt. However, because clay and salt will separate in water ’Alaea salt should be mainly used as a finishing salt. Harvested from Iran, Persian Blue salt is a natural rock salt that is mineral rich with a hint of sweetness. It is dotted with blue crystals which are in fact salt crystals that have been highly compressed, causing them to turn blue. Also know as black salt or sanchal, kala namak is an unrefined volcanic table salt with a strong sulphuric flavour. Despite its name, kala namak is actually light pink in colour. It is rich in minerals and is most often used to flavour Indian dishes likes chaats, and vegetable and fruit salads.

crystals, coating them with a rich, woody colour and imparting a strong smoky flavour. And when the salt dissolves, that flavour goes straight into the food. Both Maldon from England and Halen Môn produce a salt that has been smoked over oak wood, which goes especially well over roasted meat.

The Gravox gluten free range was the smart choice for our restaurant. ®

The Himalayan salt block Cut from slabs of solid crystal salt, the Himalayan salt block is an innovative way to add salt to the cooking (or curing) process. The salt block may be chilled to freezing point or heated up to 230°C, making it ideal for serving a range of hot or cold foods. The blocks are carved from slabs of pure salt that is estimated to be up to 250 million years old. They can be used as serving platters, to cure food and to cook it – and not just be savoury dishes; a chilled block can be used for tempering chocolate, setting caramel, or even for creating a dramatic fruit flambé to present at the table.

Crystal Flippen Executive Chef - Manly Warringah Leagues

● Edited

extract from The salt book: your guide to salting wisely and well, with recipes by Fritz Gubler & David Glynn with Dr Russell Keast (Arbon Publishing). OH

Smoked salt The effects of smoke on salt are quite remarkable: the smoke clings to the surface of the salt

Catering for customers with special dietary needs isn’t always easy. For example, simply using regular gravy on an otherwise gluten-free meal of roast meat and vegetables turns it into an unsuitable menu choice for someone diagnosed with coeliac disease (gluten intolerance). And if you can’t meet the needs of one guest, you’re likely to lose the entire party. That’s why Gravox® has developed an exciting gluten free range of gravies and boosters that are ideal as a replacement for regular mixes. Bursting with all the flavour you expect from Gravox®, the Gravox® gluten free range is simply a smarter choice for food service professionals. To find out more about gluten free menu planning, go to www.coeliacsociety.com.au and click on the Foodservice Professional link.

Distributors ● Murray

River pink salt – www.sunsalt.com.au

● Kala

Namak – www.jki.com.au

● Olsson’s ● Halen

sea salt – www.olssons.optherapy.com.au

THE SMART CHOICE FOR GRAVIES AND BOOSTERS

Môn sea salt – www.simonjohnson.com.au

● Fleur

de Sel; Hawaiian black salt; Hawaiian green salt; Hawaiian red salt; Smoked salt – www.importsoffrance.com.au

● Maldon

Sea Salt – www.mayers.com.au

● Himalayan

Pink salt; Himalayan Salt Block – www.hbctrading.com.au

GUIDE TO FREE PROFESSIONAL GLUTEN FREE COOKING

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Call 1300 365 865 today for your copy

* Limited stock, area restrictions may apply.

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Open House, June 29/1/10 2010  12:54:45 21 PM


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