It's all too easy to make a dish too salty, too bitter, too spicy or too sweet. Here’s how to turn near-tragedy into victory
We’ve all been there: you’re expecting guests at any moment, you dip your finger (sorry, we mean spoon) into the pan for a quick taste, then recoil. You’ve got carried away with the seasoning and now your mouth tastes like you’ve jumped, open-mouthed, into an oncoming wave. Disaster.
After the initial shock comes confusion, regret, and then, finally, panic.
Relax, you can resuscitate a meal on the edge of death. Just follow these simple rules.
If your dish is too spicy …
Dairy will be your friend here. If you’ve gone overboard with the chilli, try stirring in a few spoons of yoghurt or sour cream.
Nut butters will mellow a dish too, just make sure the flavour of said butter will get along nicely with your other ingredients.
If your dish is too salty …
Unfortunately, once it’s in there, there’s no getting it out, no matter how long you stare at it.
The solution? Dilute, dilute, dilute (and by that we mean add more ingredients or stock). If that doesn’t do the trick, sweetness is your next best port of call.
Repeat after us: “salt as you go”
If your dish is too bitter …
This is the flavour we’re probably most allergic to – it’s what makes us fussy eaters (we’re looking at you Brussels sprouts).
A touch of bitterness can be a wonderful thing, for example a coffee with dessert or some dark greens in a rich dish. However, if you’ve got carried away, add some salt or sugar.
If your dish is too sweet …
There’s a time and a place for sickly sweet and your main course isn’t it. Try adding a little lemon juice or a splash of vinegar into the mix but don't add salt – it will just heighten the sweet taste.
If your sauce is too runny …
Sometimes all you need to make that sauce thicker is giving it some time to simmer. This gives the ingredients time to break down and cook off some of the liquid.