Great War stories told through artefacts


Salt is extremely important to humans. Without it we die literally!
Do not ask me the details, suffice to say it is vital to our health and in the type of weather we have been having it is important to replace the salt we lose when we sweat. The ancient Romans knew this and soldiers were given a percentage of their pay in salt it is where our word salary comes from.
Salt enhances the taste of food and was one of the earliest ways people in the past preserved food.
There is a whole world of salt that you may not be aware of and I hope that after reading this you may want to explore it a little. There are two types of salt rock salt, which is mined from the ground and is the leftovers of ancient seas, and sea salt, which is what is left behind when seawater is evaporated.
Sea salt is either left in its flaky state or crushed to form table salt the only stuff we knew about in my childhood.
Some salt has iodine added to it. This is a mineral that we get from the soil and is vital for our growth (especially in children). But iodine is lacking in New Zealand soils so we need to access it through salting our food. The trouble is iodine can impart a metallic taste to food. The way I get around this is to use iodised salt in the water when boiling food but to use non-iodised salt to add to recipes or to sprinkle.
Salt used during the cooking of food is called primary salt and salt sprinkled over prepared food is called secondary salt. There another bit of useful information for quiz night.
I love secondary salts and there are some exciting ones around. They can be used to impart different flavours and textures and, in some cases colour. I have pink Himalayan rock salt, Maldon sea salt from England, brown toned Fruits de Mer from France (brown because of the sand that sticks to it when it is harvested by hand) which many chefs consider to be the best secondary salt in the world, and my latest finds: smoked sea salt, which gives an amazing smoky flavour and black sea salt (black because it has had charcoal added) just for fun. During the New Year I got to try chili salt with dried lemon from Mexico, as the rim salt on a margarita glass.
There is definitely more to salt than the stuff they pour over your fish and chips.
Right, that is the lesson over; now for some recipes.
Salt is used as frequently in sweet things as it is in savoury so let’s mix things up and start with dessert.
Easy salted caramel
NB: This will keep for two weeks covered in the fridge. Gently reheat to make it runny again.
One cup sugar
90g butter
120ml cream
1tsp sea salt
Step 1: Heat the sugar gently in a small heavy bottomed pot till it has completely melted.
Step 2: Whisk in the butter and stir till incorporated.
Step 3: Gently pour in the cream, stirring continuously (be careful as it may splatter as you are mixing a cold liquid into a hot), and boil for one minute.
Cheats’ salty
chocolate cake
Sprinkle a little sea salt over the chocolate ganache or icing of a chocolate cake before it has completely set.
A French twist on
eating brie
In France years ago we ate slices of good quality brie dipped in salt. Try it (and throw away the biscuit!).
Salt baked beetroot
NB: Baking in a salt crust causes the beetroot to steam in its own juices and so intensifies the flavour. These are beautiful in a salad or as a vegetable accompaniment to roast meat.
Four medium sized beetroot
150g table salt (do not waste
sea salt in this as the dough is not
500g flour
Two large egg whites
200ml water
Step 1: Wash and trim the beetroot. Mix the rest of the ingredients together to form a dough (do this in a food processor if you have one.) Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and rest in the fridge for an hour.
Step 2: Roll out the dough to about 5mm thick and wrap each beetroot in it. They must be completely covered and sealed in the dough.
Step 3: Bake for 2 hours at 160degC. Once cool enough to handle break off the salt crust and discard.
Salt baked potatoes
NB: This is similar to the above recipe but the salt crust is eaten.
Four large potatoes
One egg white
2tbs sea salt
Step 1: Dip each potato in egg white then dab into the salt to cover in patches.
Step 2: Place on to a baking sheet and press on the rest of the salt.
Step 3: Bake at 160degC for 1 hours then increase the temperature to 200degC and bake for a further 1 hour. Serve with butter and black pepper.
Hint: If you have got carried away and oversalted your stew (we have all done it) do not panic, just peel a couple of large potatoes and add them during the cooking time. The potatoes soak up the salt. Discard them before serving the dish.
Hope this was not too much like a school lesson! Let me know.
Cheryl Oldham

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