Today, upon logging onto Slack, I was greeted with a horror story. Last night, our dear managing editor, Virginia, was making a lentil soup recipe from [redacted], only to find it called for a paltry 1/4 teaspoon of salt. “Reader, it was bland,” she told us, to which A.A. Newton replied “I’m going to scream,” because she is basically a salt-rights activist.
This led to a discussion on bland recipes, and how to fight them. Adding more that an 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt to a vat of soup is a good start, but increasing the garlic was also popular because, let’s be honest, even a whole head of garlic is not that much garlic.
Virginia: My go-to is “double or triple whatever amount of garlic they recommended,” and usually, “add cumin”
A.A. Newton: For baking recipes: use salted butter, and double the vanilla. Always salt big pieces of meat overnight, and salt the soaking water for dried beans and legumes. [You can] also double the salt [in a recipe] usually, because EVERYONE’S AFRAID OF SALT.
I also find myself doubling or tripling the acid in most vinaigrette recipes. I like something closer to 1:1 acid-to-oil ratio, rather than 1:3 because then you don’t need as much dressing to make the salad taste good. I [also] put adobo in EVERYTHING .
Alice: Red pepper flakes. [Claire note: YES.] I often use soy sauce, coconut aminos, or FISH SAUCE in soup, or all of the above!
Alicia: Mine is that I at least triple the garlic and add in a bunch of other seasonings to chicken soup, etc. There’s never enough! Also, yes, usually more salt. You have to taste throughout and add accordingly
Beth: Conversion factor: 1 clove of garlic = 1 head. [Claire note: Emphasis mine.] I like to use spice blends in place of salt and pepper. Garlic salt, 21 seasoning, whatever’s at hand that will be a little more interesting.
Meghan: My husband’s uncle taught me to season as I go along. salt in the beginning, salt again in the middle, cook/simmer, taste and adjust at the end. I don’t know if that’s something everyone does but it seems to enhance the flavour.
My kind of secret, slightly shameful tip for boosting flavour — besides all of the above brilliance — is adding a little (or big) spoonful of Better Than Bouillon paste to gravy, soups, stews, and pan sauces. Just a smidge ups the savoury factor so much, it almost feels like cheating.
Oh, and you should always finish your dish with a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon. Acid is important.
But enough about us. What do you add to ho-hum recipes to make them delicious, and what’s your most common under-seasoned recipe complaint? Also please share how much garlic you add to any given recipe that calls for garlic. The people need to know.