The unpretentious salt is not just a basic commodity anymore. Pure salts, such as the black lava salt or the Persian blue salt have now caught the fancy of chefs. Each pure salt has a story to tell and can alter the flavour and aroma of dishes in distinct ways. Pure salts are scrapped and packaged without any artificial process. Sourced from rocks, lakes and oceans that dried up more than 200 million years ago, they come in lovely hues and irregular granules.
They are infused with essential minerals such as iron, calcium, and potassium. At Sevilla, the Mediterranean restaurant at The Claridges, chef Neeraj Tyagi takes you through a journey of salts sourced from across the globe. In the salt tasting session, you are given seven petite pieces of muskmelon, each sprinkled with a different salt.
“These salts make a huge difference to a recipe. Each salt has a distinct flavour and aroma and one has to carefully choose the salt to match the palette of the dish to make it come alive,” says Tyagi. Even the process that the chef uses to pep up his preparations with the salt is quite interesting. For instance, he places a slab of pink Himalayan salt on a tray, lays out a salmon fillet on it, and places the tray in an oven to let the fish absorb the flavour of the salt.
Pure salts also work well for grills and roasted meat. “Rock salt, both black and white, enhances the flavour of roasted chicken, releasing its natural aroma that you won’t get when using iodised salt,” says chef Devraj Halder, The Suryaa. Chef Manav Sharma of Ignis uses sea salts to liven up his dishes.
“When grilling fish, don’t add any salt in the marinade. For a great flavour, sprinkle some coarsely crushed sea salt when the fish is ready to be plated,” he says. Chefs also say that gourmet salts will soon line up the shelves of gourmet stores in India. “While abroad it’s a common trend, cooking with pure salts will soon catch up,” says Tyagi.
Italian grey salt
This greyish-white salt from Italy gets it slightly greyish colours from the small amount of porcelain clay raked up from the bottom of the salt pan. It has a warm, briny flavour, and teams well with seafood and chicken.
Danish smoked salt
Copperish in colour, this smoked salt has been used for decades in Swedish and Norwegian homes to cure reindeer and salmon. It’s an ideal salt for making salmon gravlax. A pinch of it gives a smoked flavour.
Persian blue salt
Its blue tinge is a bit of a mystery, taking the colour from an uncanny interaction between sylvite, dispersed metallic sodium, and other minerals alloying the salt. It has a silken sweet delicate flavour and brilliantly jazzes up fish.
Himalayan pink salt
Mined from the south-facing scarp of the Potwar plateau in the Punjab region of northern Pakistan, this translucent, pebbelish salt
has a pungent, slightly sweet flavour. It works best with pork.
Cyprus salt flakes
The flaky salt, with pyramid-shaped crystals, and a buttery flavour is sourced from lakes and salt rocks on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. It goes well with pork and mushrooms. It’s used to create different flavoured salts.
Hawaiian black lava salt
Sourced from the Hawaiian island, this black salt with irregular granules has a low moisture content and a tannic and faintly hot flavour. It teams up best with lamb lion and grilled cheese, such as scamorza and chevre.
Hawaiian red lava salt
Another Hawaiian salt, this pretty brick red salt has coarse granules, cut imperfectly by scrapping. It has a nice earthy flavour, with notes of wet pavement. It’s best used for making an earthy duck meat.
Tomato mozzarella salad
Here’s a simple pure salt recipe for you to try. Use Himalayan pink salt to liven up your caprese salad. Take two fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese cut into slices and lettuce leaves dressed with olive oil and lemon. Place the lettuce leaves on the plate, line up tomato and mozzarella slices one after another, add some basil leaves and sprinkle some olive oil and Himalayan pink salt
Where to buy gourmet salts: You can buy Himalayan pink salt from INA Market. You can also order gourmet sea salt sampler from Amazon.com at $15.99 (Rs 812).