24 November 2018

How to "Season to Taste"

"to everyhting there is a season" - ecclesiastes 1

Only joking!

A common, almost obligatory, instruction in recipes is “season to taste” but this is quite a broad direction so here's some guidance.

For most of my cooking life (quite a long while, actually) it has been generally accepted that there are 5 basic flavours that we can taste;

Salty * Sweet * Sour * Bitter * Umami

Recently, it has been suggested that we humans can identify other tastes; fat and pungent and/or astringent, but I am not going to deal with these here, probably soon though!

Seasoning with Salt

spoonful of sea saltSalt is amazing stuff, not only does it make food taste, umm … salty, it can also bring out the sweetness of a dish (think salted caramel – yum!) and it can even reduce bitterness, as in when you add a pinch of salt to coffee.  You do that don’t you? If not give it a try!

Which salt to use?

When I am salting potatoes for boiling, seasoning a sauce or adding a pinch to my coffee I use table salt.  When I am seasoning meat or adding a sprinkle to a finished dish, I normally use Maldon sea. In the US kosher salt, which is similarly flaky, is frequently used. 

Salty ingredients to balance a dish include ...

     ~  Olives
     ~  Capers
     ~  Anchovies
     ~  Prosciutto (prosciutto butter is a great way to add salt to a dish )
     ~  Salty cheese such as Feta
     ~  Soy sauce

Salt can be added at different times whilst preparing a dish ...

Salting Before Cooking

Adding salt at the start of cooking has a different effect than salting at the end; it infuses the whole dish. Two ways to add salt at the beginning are add salt to water when cooking vegetables, pasta, rice etc. and sprinkling salt onto something to be cooked over dry heat such as meat or fish. Although salt is known to draw juices out of meat (and anything else) salting immediately before cooking is nevertheless a good thing, it adds flavour and doesn't have time for any juice-drawing so salt before roasting, frying etc.

Interestingly enough, if you salt large pieces of meat long enough in advance the salt will indeed draw out some of the juices, but they will then be reabsorbed right into the centre of the meat thus seasoning the inside!! Rub a spoonful of sea salt into a joint of meat and leave for 4 or more hours before cooking. Smaller cuts of meat, duck breast for instance or steak, will benefit in the same way from salting say 20 minutes for the duck breast or 40 for a steak, before cooking. Wipe the meat surface before continuing so that you get a good sear and see here for how to make a delicious pan sauce from browned meat juices.  

Salting During Cooking

If you add something new to the dish such as cream, stock, or anything really, add a little more salt.

Salting After Cooking

Once cooked, whatever it is, season “to taste” thus ~  taste, add a little salt, taste, add another pinch of salt, taste again, repeat till it is delicious. You are not aiming for a saltier taste but a brighter one with the sweet and bitter elements balanced out by the salt. Repeat till the food tastes exactly how you like it!

Most people have salt and pepper on the table when serving so diners can also make small adjustments.
add something sweet or acidic to fix a salty dish

Seasoning with Sweetness

At first it might seem strange seasoning savoury foods with sweet ingredients, but a touch of sugar can give a real boost. Consider the many table sauces we use with savoury foods which contain high levels of sugar – mint sauce, tomato ketchup, sweet chilli sauce etc. Caramelised onions are gorgeous in many savoury dishes.

Adding just a little sugar makes salty things taste less salty and sour things taste less sour – a little brown sugar can be great in beef dishes see this recipe for Korean Bulgogi  and sugar or a sweet ingredient such as tomato ketchup makes a tomato based dish even lovelier.

Sugar is the obvious sweet ingredient here but choose appropriately; dark brown sugar goes well with beef and gives a caramel taste, light brown sugar is a bit butterscotchy, white sugar is probably the best all purpose taste. 

Sweet ingredients to balance a dish include ...

     ~  Sugar
     ~  Honey     
     ~  Maple syrup     
     ~  Jam     
     ~  Fruits - sweet ones, not citrus, cranberry or pineapple           ~  Dried fruits     
     ~  Caramelised onions
if food too sweet add sourness or bitternes, not salt
Oddly enough, if a meal is too sweet don’t try to balance it by adding salt – as I said above salt can make things taste sweeter. Instead add a squeeze of lemon or lime or a dash of vinegar as appropriate.

Seasoning with Sourness

squeezing lemon juiceA dash of citrus juice or vinegar can really brighten a dish, in fact if you are nervous about too much salt when tasting and seasoning try a squeeze of lemon. It will also balance out too much sweetness or spiciness.  

Sour ingredients to balance a dish include …

     ~  Lemon and lime juice
     ~  Canned tomatoes (fresh too but not so much)
     ~  Vinegar – lots to choose from so select one that goes with what you are cooking!
     ~  Sour cream and buttermilk
     ~  Tamarind paste
add cream, butter or something sweet to balance an acidic dish

Seasoning with Bitterness

dark chocolate can balance an over sweet dish

Bitter flavours can be used to balance rich or over-sweet dish for instance a dash of coffee in a sweet chocolate dessert. 

Bitter ingredients for balancing a dish include …

     ~  Coffee
     ~  Unsweetened cocoa and very dark chocolate
     ~  Citrus peels 
     ~  Olives
     ~  Grapefruit
     ~  Horseradish.

add something sweet to balance bitterness

Seasoning with Umami/Savourines

jar of marmite

Umami is apparently Japanese for savouriness or a pleasant savoury taste which was identified as a basic taste by Professor Kikunae Ikeda in 1908 but it seems to have been some while before we adopted the word. I was happy with savoury! I’m not going to go into details here, but it is something to do with glutamate

These savoury ingredients add depth to your food. 

Umami rich ingrediets include …

     ~  Marmite (apologies to American readers, didn't mean to frighten you!)
     ~  Soy sauce 
     ~  Parmesan cheese, Blue cheese & Cheddar cheese
     ~  Mushrooms generally and dried shiitake mushrooms in particular
     ~  Anchovies
     ~  Worcestershire Sauce - because it contains anchovies 
     ~  Dry-cured ham 
     ~  Tomatoes
     ~  Oyster sauce 
     ~  Miso
     ~  Beef broth

… and I think reading this list you can imagine the type of taste I am referring to. If you add one or more of these ingredients, as appropriate of course, to your cooking you will give it a real flavour boost.
add someting bland if meal is to overpowering

Important when Seasoning Cold Dishes

chilled foods must be highly seasoned

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1 November 2018

219 (and then some!) Brilliant Ideas for Leftovers

I have just updated the page on my book, Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers – see the tab above, appropriately named My Book on Leftovers …

On the original page I had included several (or maybe even many!) links to posts on Sudden Lunch concerning leftovers and I don’t want to waste them, so I’m listing them here instead!

my philosophy on leftover food

Of all the foods in the world leftovers are my favourite ingredient and using them my favourite way to cook.  If I find myself with random bits and pieces to use up I am delighted and often inspired; I enjoy the challenge of making them into a good meal and then I enjoy eating it! 

This is a fun and economical way of discovering new ideas and dishes; sometimes the result of playing with leftovers is so pleasing that the end product becomes a regular dish.

I mention leftovers in many, many Sudden Lunch posts, here is a list of the main ones, in no particular order! 

     ~   Recycled Biscuit Cake

     ~    Cold Porridge ~Yum! (Seriously) 

     ~   You’ve Got to try this with Stollen!

     ~   7 Ways to Use Leftover Polenta 

     ~   What to do with Leftover Soup!  

     ~   Ideas for Leftover Pâté 

     ~   15 Ways to Use (Not) Leftover Honey 

     ~   10 Delicious Ideas for Leftover Asparagus 

     ~   How to Use Leftover Easter Eggs 

     ~   10 Interesting Ways to Use Pastry Scraps plus a Boring One

     ~   8 and a Bit Ways to Cope with an "Unwanted" Bottle of Port

     ~   How to Use Every Part of a Chicken

     ~   9 Ideas for Leftover Baked Potatoes plus Fartes de Batatas!

     ~   15 Ideas for Marzipan Trimmings 

     ~   Ideas for Leftover Haggis including a Few Sensible Ones! 

     ~   64 Ideas for Leftover Cheese plus a Joke!

     ~   7 (+) Interestingly Different Ideas for Leftover Bread

     ~   Got Leftover Hot Cross Buns Lurking about the Place?

     ~   There is No Excuse for Discarding One's Banana

     ~   50+ Brilliant Ideas for Christmas Leftovers 

     ~   Hamming Around with Prosciutto Scraps!

     ~   18 Ways to Use Up "Leftover Wine" ~ Deliciously! 🍷 Cheers!

I'll probably add more as I remember or write them so save this page and check back occasionally!

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6 October 2018

Easy Ways to Make Soup Taste Even Better!

Recently I read this quote from the Telegraph and it certainly makes sense to me. We have just enjoyed a most fabulous hot and sunny summer when cool and refreshing fruit juices have been a Godsend. But, it is getting colder, have you noticed?

Time for soup!

I have written a great deal about soup, not only in my book Soup (Almost) The Only Recipe You'll Ever Need but, of course, also here on Sudden Lunch!

So today whilst my chicken and leek soup simmers on the stove I am going to suggest lots of ways to make your soup, whether it be homemade (go on, it’s easy) or bought in, even more delicious.

Flavour Boosters

a squeeze of lemon

If your soup is not quite as tasty as you had hoped, try these …

~ Worcestershire Sauce – this is a good addition to meaty and cheesy soups but be warned, it is Not Vegetarian as it contains anchovies although you can’t actually taste them!
~ Horseradish – this is also good in beef soups and also fish soups in general and smoked fish in particular, oh, and in beetroot soups too.
~ Hot sauce – when I lived in the West Indies hot sauce was added to most things and I can't actually think of a soup that wouldn't take well to a few drips of hot sauce.
~ Lemon juice – a squeeze of juice just before serving will brighten the flavour of seafood, poultry and vegetable soups.

Adjusting Soup Texture


A soup’s character can be varied by the way it is finished off ...

~   Do nothing and have a chunky soup – that is the easy one!
~   Mash the ingredients into the stock with a fork or potato masher for a rustic texture.
~   Use a food processor to produce a purée or a liquidiser for a very smooth and sophisticated finish.

You can do all this with bought in soups, too, if you like!

great ideas for leftover parmesan rind

Add some dairy!

~ Cream – either stir cream into finished soup or add a drizzle as below.
~ Cheese on Soup! Grate Parmesan or other hard cheese over your soup second before taking to the table, or top with a cheese on toast croute as in French Onion Soup.
~ Another good idea is to simmer leftover Parmesan rind in tomato soup for a lovely flavour boost.
~ Butter – top your soup AT THE LAST MINUTE with a slice or dollop of suitably flavoured butter or, if you don’t want a rush when serving drizzle with melted flavoured butter. How about smoky chipotle butter on corn chowder or roasted garlic butter on pumpkin soup – see here for lots of tasty butter ideas.

Last minute additions 

~   Add fast cooking fresh or frozen vegetables and simmer for a few minutes just before serving – try frozen peas, shredded greens, finely cut green beans, tiny broccoli or cauliflower florets etc.

~   Cooked meats can also be added but do so at the last minute just enough to warm through, do not allow to boil.
the ultimate leftovers cookbook
~   The same goes for cooked fish.

The above 3 ideas are all great for leftovers, something on which I am somewhat of an expert, which is why I wrote Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers.

Drizzle something tasty and attractive on the soup

write a message on your soup!

You can do this with a teaspoon or a squeezy bottle. Make a pretty swirl, draw a picture or write something! Years ago when I cheffed at the Royal BVI Yacht Cub I knew most of the patrons so would often write their names or a friendly insult in their soup! 

Try ...

~   Good tasty extra virgin olive oil.
~   Truffle oil – drizzle or drip abstemiously (it’s strong) on mushroom soup in particular and also try it on beef or blue cheese soups.
~   Nut or seed oils such as sesame oil, pumpkin seed oil or walnut oil.
~   Roasted garlic oil
~   Salsa or red pepper coulis on corn chowder.
~   Cream, of course

~   Infused oils such as basil, chilli or delicious chorizo infused oil.

whisky as soup of the day

Add alcohol to your soup!

Generally speaking the best way to do this is to put a spoonful in the bowl before adding the soup. 

~   The obvious one is brandy in French Onion Soup
~   Dry sherry in fish soups, bisques and chowders.
~   Vodka gives a boost to tomato soups.
~   Madeira is good in mushroom soup.
~   Try this delicious spicy pepper “wine” from the Caribbean in seafood soups (or anything you fancy, really!). In this case I normally just put a small bottle of the pepper wine on the table and let diners dose their own soup.

Crunchy Soup Toppings

~   Croutons – see here for my definitive post on making croutons.
~   Toasted Nuts and Seeds
~   Crisp shards of freshly cooked poppadoms on curried soups.
~   At a pinch, crisps will work too!
~   Frazzled things! – all sorts of foods can be crisply fired for a crunchy soup garnish.
~   Scatter crisp shards of bacon or chorizo or parma ham on, well, pretty well any soup! 

soup topped with croutons and chorizo

Herbs & Spices


soup sprinkled with herbs and spices
Sprinkle your soup with spices or with appropriately flavoured fresh herbs.

~ Basil or oregano are good on tomato soups,
~ Try a little sage (frazzled or not) on turkey soup – remember that for just after Christmas!
~ Parsley is not just a pretty garnish it actually has a flavour that goes very well with chicken and fish soups.
~ A little freshly grated nutmeg is good on potato soups.
~ A simple grinding of black pepper is always a boon. 

See here for lots more information on sprinkles, drizzles and garnishes in general.

Give it a Rest!

As with many slow cooked dishes, the flavour of soup can somehow improve with an overnight rest in the fridge.

soup sleeping

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20 September 2018

How I Got Rid of Mouth Ulcers After 60 Years!

mouth ulcer relief image
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This is a strange post, completely irrelevant and nothing to do with food other than some people might be able to enjoy eating more if this works for them like it works for me!

Ever since I was old enough to say “Ouch” I have suffered very severely from mouth ulcers.  Sometime my whole lower lip would be one big ulcer, often I could count 15 or more separate ulcers throughout my mouth.  Tiny ulcers under my tongue sometimes stopped me eating - tragic! This sort of thing is a Real Bugger for a chef!

I saw dentists, doctors and specialists to no avail.

One day, googling away trying to find out what to do about it, I discovered an ingredient (I cannot remember or find the name of it now) which is in most toothpaste but not in Sensodyne Gentle Whitening, which could could mouth ulcers.

toothpaste that cured ulcers

So, I tried it (an extensive trial, I’ve been using it a couple of years now) and after about 60 years of pain I am now virtually ulcer free.  

I just felt I should tell someone because it really helped me, and it might help others. Worth a try?

I’d just like to say this post has nothing to do with promoting anything, Sensodyne are not aware of my writing it and I am not involved in any affiliate marking.

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28 August 2018

55 Delicious Ways to Garnish Food

Don’t worry, I’m not going to be waxing lyrical about tomato roses or butter sculptures!

Whether you are a brilliant chef, a good home cook or prone to buying in ready-made here are loads of cunning ruses which can make your food more attractive (and therefore some would say easier to digest), more impressive, more delicious and generally more enjoyable.

Two important points before we start.

1.   In almost all cases it is best to add the garnish to a dish immediately before serving but if I think of an instance where this doesn’t apply I’ll mention it.
2.   It might seem obvious but do make sure the garnish compliments the dish; as lovely as a vibrant sprig of parsley may look it is rarely suitable, for instance, on a chocolate mousse. 

Garnishing with Herbs

According to their nature and the dish to be garnished herbs can be used as fronds, scattered leaves, little bunches, sprigs, chopped and sprinkled, chiffonade (finely cut shreds, see below) or even fried.

a collection of herb garnishes

How to prepare herbs ...

~   Make sure the herbs are clean and dry. ~   Use a large sharp knife, gather the herbs together on the chopping board and with the tip of the knife on the board use a rocking motion to chop the herbs with the heel of the knife.  Change the angle to chop more finely. 
~   In some cases a sharp pair of scissors works well and a trick to this is put the stripped herb leaves into a deep bowl or measuring jug and snip at them.

~   Chiffonade – aka fine shreds. This is especially useful for larger leaves such as basil or sage. It is quicker if you pile up a few of the leaves and slice them all together or with big leaves roll them up before slicing.
how to cut chiffonade

Edible Flower Garnishes

The flowers of many herbs are edible and can make a dish look stunning, especially the blue ones!

edible flowers

~   Chive flowers – these taste as one would expect; mildly oniony. Whilst the whole flower is very pretty for eating purposes it is better to pull the flower apart, gently, and sprinkle your dish with the petals.

~   Borage – beautiful with a light cucumber flavour these are great added to salads, sprinkled on cucumber friendly foods such as, say, cucumber and also make a pretty garnish for Pimms.

~   Wild garlic – I love this stuff which grows wild all over the place in April and early May, depending where you live. The leaves are useful in all sorts of ways,  read all about Wild Garlic here. The flowers are very pretty and entirely edible.

~   Lavender has a wonderful colour and a somewhat perfumey flavour which goes well with honey, summer berries and the sort of dishes that are served in Provence!

~   When adding rosemary to a dish why not add a few of the flowers too, they taste like rosemary!

Other flowers such as nasturtiums are also edible but is too wide a subject to go into here.

Fruit Garnishes

Of course, most fruits are bright, beautiful and gorgeous with no help whatsoever; for instance, a slice of star fruit or kiwi fruit, a perfect strawberry, a fragile physalis or a cluster of redcurrants.

fresh fruit garnishes

If you use cut fruit brush the cut surfaces with a little lemon juice to stop it turning brown.

~   Try scattering pomegranate seeds on rice; looks good and adds great texture contrast.

~   A lemon, orange or lime wedge, slice or twist is a great garnish for seafood, desserts and drinks and if the diner squeezes them their juice can brightens the taste too.
grilled lemon

~  When grilling fish a cut lemon half grilled alongside makes an interesting and delicious garnish - the warm lemon juice is perfect squeezed over the fish.

Vegetable Garnishes

Vegetable come in all sorts of lovely shapes and colours and just the way you cut them can make them look even better.

various vegetable garnishes

~   Try slicing spring onions on a sharp diagonal.

~   When chopping parsley or other herbs mix in some very finely diced red and yellow pepper and red onion.

~   Using a potato peeler slice thin ribbons of, say carrot or courgette to swirl onto food (or use a spiraliser!).

~   Thinly, thinly slice red onion into half-moons and toss with freshly squeezed lemon juice, the onion will turn a stunning pinkish purple colour.

~   Grated vegetables such as carrot can add a shot of colour to a dish.

Some vegetables, cut thinly, will go interestingly curly if left in iced water for a little while, for instance ...

~   Carrot curls – using a potato peeler cut thin ribbons of carrot and drop into iced water.

 ~   Spring onion “flowers” – cut off the bulb end together with about 5cm of the onion. Using scissors cut into thin strips without cutting all the way through. Into the iced water they will curl like a flower.

 ~   Spring onion curls – after making the flowers cut the rest of the onions into 5cm lengths and then cut these into narrow strips and after a few minutes in iced water they will look like this.

 ~   Red and yellow pepper curls look brilliant but require a little more work. Cut the flat sides from a pepper and then carefully with your knife at a sharp angle remove the flesh from the skin (and save the flesh to use elsewhere – lots of ideas in my book Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers, just saying!).  Cut the skin into narrow strips and drop them into the iced water till curly.

~   A stunning garnish can be made using this method and a bright red chilli. Carefully cut the chilli into narrow strips from the tip to the stalk end without cutting through the end. Remove and discard all the seeds and be prudent about where you put your hands till you have washed them. The chilli will blossom into a lovely “flower” in the iced water.

If drained well and kept cold these garnishes stay curled in the fridge till you need them.

Cooked vegetables can also be decorative as well as delicious ...
frazzled leeks

~   Frazzled vegetables – strands or ribbons of an appropriate vegetable, such as parsnips, sweet potatoes or leeks, deep fried, make a wonderful crunchy garnish. See here for information on frazzling!

~   Crisply fried onions work well especially on steaks, burgers and so on.

~   Thick vegetable purée – say cooked peas (strained) or red pepper purée can be dotted about the plate – see dollops below.

~   Use a prime example of the main ingredient to garnish a dish as with these sautéed mushrooms on mushrooms soup (this is Mushroom, Garlic & Clotted Cream Soup from my book Soup (almost) the Only Recipe you’ll Ever Need).

mushroom soup with fried mushrooms and crouton garnish

Meat Garnishes

Meat isn't usually considered as a garnish(which is why I haven't assembled a collage of images) but why not? It can make a meal look more appealing, taste even better and is also a useful way of making a little meat go a long way.

bacon praline on maple syrup ice cream
~   Crumbled crunchy bacon is good sprinkled on all sorts of savoury things such as egg, chicken and fish dishes, into salads onto soups and on pancakes with maple syrup or maple syrup ice cream (and, ahem, there is a gobsmackingy easy recipe for Maple Syrup Ice Cream in my book Lush Ice Cream without a Machine).

~   Shredded meats of all sorts can be added to or scattered over salad, soup, pizzas and so on, but even better how about sautéing shreds of cooked meat (e.g. ham or chorizo) until crispy and then doing the aforementioned scattering.

~  Chicken and duck skin can be made into a delicious crunchy garnish - see here for details.

duck grattons

Cheese Garnishes

~   Parmesan cheese is a common garnish for pasta dishes but is good elsewhere too, or peel off slivers with a potato peeler. Here is some Roasted Garlic & Parmesan Soup with two garnishes - shavings of Paremesan and croutons (see below).

soup garnished with parmesan shavings and croutons

~   Blue cheese grates beautifully once frozen and is excellent shredded over risotto, for instance, or how about on steak?

~   Crumble crumbly cheeses over salads.

Crunchy Garnishes

I love to add something crunchy to a meal and it looks good too!

crisp and crunchy garnishes

~   Crunchy breadcrumbs - these are great sprinkled over creamy pasta dishes, some salads and anywhere a bit of crunch would be appreciated.  The easiest way to make them is to crumble (by hand, with a grater or in a food processor) some not too stale bread.  Season as you wish and then drizzle with enough olive oil to moisten the crumbs (but not too wet).  Preheat a dry frying pan and when hot toss and stir the crumbs in the pan till they are crisp and golden.  Drain on kitchen roll and sprinkle away. Take this one step further and make delicious Pangrattato

~   Panko crumbs work in the same way – just dry fry them in a hot pan few a minute or two to make them golden.

~   Crunchy shreds - flatbreads such as tortilla, poppadoms, wraps etc. can be cut into shreds (or wedges or other shapes) and fried briefly till crisp.  Drain on kitchen roll, season and use to garnish soups, salads, sarnies and what have you.

~   Croutons.  I have very firm views about croutons which are that they should be torn rather than cut. They are then interesting shapes which look pretty and also tend to be crunchier as they have more points and edges  Read all about making delicious croutons here.

~   Fairly plain cake, diced and fried in butter, can make a good crouton for adding to ice cream, fruit salad etc.

~   Croûtes are crisply fried or baked slices of bread.

~   Just chopped nuts, toasted or otherwise, can be a great flavour and texture counterpoint.

~   Seeds too!


Adding spoonful of a complimentary sauce or similar is another easy way to make a meal look and taste even better. 

a spoonful of ...

~   Sour cream goes well with spicy Mexican dishes and in appropriate soups.

~   Cream cheese (maybe slightly softened with the addition of a little cream) is great on tomato pasta dishes.

~   Plain, preferable Greek style yogurt is gorgeous with Indian curried dishes.

~   Mayonnaise for seafood, chicken and salads or try mustard mayonnaise with beef or, and I really recommend this, roasted garlic mayonnaise with salmon – see here for allsorts of flavoured mayonnaise ideas. 

~   Brightly coloured and flavoured salsas and sauces can also be dolloped to advantage.

 Drizzles and Swirls

A drizzle, swirl or even a few drips of a complimentary sauce or syrup can easily improve the look and taste of a dish.

garnishing with sauces

~   Balsamic Glaze – I used to make this long ago and far, far away but as it fills the kitchen with vinegary fumes, takes a while and is not particularly economical I now buy it from the supermarket.  It is excellent on all sorts of dishes; mushrooms, meats, polenta, hummus, salads, blue cheese being just a few examples. Just drizzle it over the meal with a gentle swinging motion et voila ...

~   Rich greeny/gold extra virgin olive oil looks and tastes good drizzled over many soups, salads and bean dips.

~   Honey and maple syrup are excellent on ice creams and over porridge, pancakes and many other dishes too.

~   Cream and sour cream can be used to make pretty patterns in soups. When I was chef at a yacht club where I knew all the diners I sometimes used to write the name of the punter or possibly a rude message in the soup!

~   Garnish a plate with a brightly coloured purée such as red pepper or green pea (or both - Christmassy!) or here’s a good idea – purée tog mango chutney and red pepper.

~   Thicker sauces such as chilled fruit coulis will hold their shape well enough to dot about the place effectively. 

~   Chocolate sauce of course!

~   To make heart shaped drops as with the Sticky Toffee Sauce in the picture run the tip of a toothpick through the centre of each drop.


A suitable sprinkle is a quick and easy way to fancy up a dish and, luckily, sprinkly things come in a wide range of flavours and colours.

various sprinkle garnishes

~   Just a coarse grinding of black pepper (or, even better, a mixture of red, green, black and white peppercorns) can make a plate look good and a meal taste better. When I first started doing this the waitstaff used to clean it off the plate before serving but I educated them!

~   Crunchy sea salt is a lovely addition to most savoury dishes and some sweet ones too (salted caramel for instance). Take this one step further by using a flavoured salt such as smoked or chilli or a pretty one like the Himalayan pink salt in the picture above.

~   A pinch of chilli powder, paprika or smoked paprika, as appropriate, adds colour and oomph to a meal.

~   Sumac is a lovely deep red spice with a lemony flavour which compliments fish and chicken and makes a great sprinkle on hummus. 

~   Grated chocolate (or a crumbled Flake!) is a boon on many desserts.

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