Creating Flavour Profiles
Creating Flavour Profiles
Creating flavour profiles throughout dishes is important to building flavour and adding amazing depth to dishes. But why? And what even is a flavour profile?
So what is a flavour profile? Putting things very simply - flavour profiles are the complete mix of salt, savoury (umami), sweet, sour, salty, and bitter in your mouth. So, basically, the taste of things. But we call it a 'flavour profile' as it is more than just a taste - it's an identity that plays a bigger part in the complete dish we're tasting.
Example: Imagine an apple. It has a sweet flavour like most fruits. Eating it on its own is the taste of apple. If we then cook that apple, we still have its sweet flavour, but more caramel tones may have started to come through. We could add golden syrup or sugar to the cooking apples. They add to the sweet taste, but create an even bolder sweet punch. Then we can add a sweet sugary crumble on top, then bake everything for 20 minutes to add crisp. We still have the taste of apple right throughout the dish, but our flavour profile is the sweet, fruitiness of the apple that we're complimenting with the other ingredients. Just eating raw apple, a dollop of golden syrup, and some cooked crumble will not taste anything near as good as a properly made apple crumble. The lone ingredients have no flavour profile.
Why are flavour profiles important, if all the tastes are great anyway? Flavour profiles are about considering the dish as a whole, rather than just the sum of its constituent parts. A lasagne is greater than just beef mince, cheese, and pasta. A beef stew shouldn't just be meat and stock. Heck, even a stock shouldn't just be water, meat juice and veg. They all combine to a much greater being - a complete dish that is so much better when eating altogether. Creating a flavour profile throughout your dish links up all your ingredients.
So how do we create flavour profiles? There are myriad ways to create a flavour profile, from cooking everything together (like cottage pie), adding an over-arching spice, seasoning, or sauce (like teriyaki beef noodles), or using the same ingredient cooked different ways (like salmon mousse parcels).
But the easiest way is to use cooking by-products and juices right throughout the cooking. A great example is my fish pie recipe. After poaching the fish in the milk, you could make a white sauce from scratch. But you have an entire pan of deliciously smoky, fish-flavoured milk that goes straight into the sauce effortlessly. No standalone white sauce will taste as good as a white sauce made with the cooking milk.
Similarly, the rich onion gravy in my bangers and mash is cooked right in there with the sausages. Every sugar, protein, fat, and flavour note that would otherwise be left in the pan are transferred to the gravy.
The tongue enjoys these complimenting, joined up flavours; it doesn't like having to fight through contrasting flavours, or those which threaten to overpower each other.
So consider flavour profiles every time you cook. Can that halloumi be fried in the rendered bacon fat? Will the onions for the sauce taste better if you fry the chorizo first, then use the oil that seeps out? All them juices and fats at the bottom of the Sunday roast tin - is there a treat to be had mixing them into the gravy? Can you use the beef marinating juices to stir fry the noodles in? The answer is almost always - YES!
NB: Flavour profiles aren't the be-all-and-end-all though. I'll be posting future Why's? about balancing acid, sweet, salt, sour, bitter, and savoury flavours in a dish. Also how using different textures, and how contrasts in flavour or temperature can be beneficial. Always think of your dish as a whole, and consider how the person will be eating it!
I'm Martin! This blog is me asking food and cookery what's going on, while sharing some of my creations and ideas. I'd love to hear your own 'why's?' so please share every question you have!
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