"He's the salt of the earth", "he's not worth his salt" ... even the word "salary" is believed to have been derived from the latin "sal" or salt. All of this goes to show how important salt is and always has been to mankind, and not just in the kitchen. It's often overlooked as a bland, boring condiment in cookery though, so I was very intrigued to see the colourful range of finishing salts available at Steenbergs.
Reading through their press release made my head spin ! "From Persian Blue to Yellow Margarita, and from Himalayan Pink to Lava Red, the colourful new range of finishing salts from Steenbergs, the artisan spice experts, will brighten and intensify any dish." They offer 8 sea salts, 7 coloured salts and 18 salt blends, including Salt with Seaweed, Sel Epice, Vanilla Salt, Matcha Tea Salt, Hawaiian Red Lava Salt (fine & coarse), Persian Blue, a delicate Sicilian Fior de Sale and Fleur de Sel from Guérande, France. They have everything from the large crystals of Bali and the white crystalline hat-shaped flakes of Pakistan to the blue-grey hue of the clay infused Sel Gris and the dry flaky salt from Cyprus. I never even dreamed that all these different sorts of salt existed. Madhouse Daddy likes to bring home a jar of sand from all of our exotic holiday destinations because there are such a wide range of textures and colours, so maybe we should start collecting salt from around the world instead !
The popular trend for multi-coloured salts has encouraged Steenbergs to develop their range, to include Hawaiian Red Lava Salt, Indian Black Salt (Kala Nanak), Persian Blue Salt, Yellow Margarita Salt, Pink Peruvian Sea Salt, Pink Himalayan Salt and pinky Murray River Salt. Each has subtle differences in flavour and texture and is often used to finish a dish for a splash of colour and seasoning.
Salt blends are also proving incredibly popular with chefs and home cooks alike. From traditional blends (celery salt, chilli salt), to salt and herb blend suggestions (Salt & Herb Blend for Game, Salt & Herb Blend for Fish), and from regionally specific mixes (Chaat Masala salt, Mediterranean Salt Blend & Sel épice), all the way through to indulgent blends (Porcini salt, Truffle Salt) and the ideal all-rounder Perfect Salt, Steenbergs really do seem to have all bases covered.
They sent me through two of their salts to experiment with : Coarse Alaea Red Salt from Hawaii and Organic Vanilla Salt, Blended in Yorkshire.
The Vanilla Salt looks grey at first glance but on closer inspection, you can see the fine white grains of salt and the little black dots of vanilla. This is a mixture of sea salt combined with 10% organic vanilla powder. Now, I love flavoured salts such as garlic salt and celery salt, and I love vanilla sugar, but I couldn't get my head around vanilla salt. What should this be used for? Sweet or savoury dishes? So far, I've used a sprinkling in cake mixes and even got brave enough to add some to sweet and sour pork, but I'm still not quite sure what to do with it !
For the second jar, the website explains that a natural mineral called "Alaea" (baked volcanic red clay) is added to enrich the salt with iron oxide which gives it its red colour and a subtle taste. This is a really robust salt in its coarse form so it's great for dishes with strong flavours. I had a taste from the jar and it is incredibly salty (I know, it's salt, so it's bound to be salty, but it seems saltier than regular table salt) and reminded me of the taste of the sea when you go swimming and get a mouthful. This is great for rubbing over large joints of meat, adding to marinades or stirring into meaty casseroles.
I absolutely love the idea of experimenting with different salts, just as I love experimenting with different spices. I will be looking around online - both on Steenberg's website and further afield on google - to see if I can find some new ways to incorporate them into my cooking. Let me know if you have any ideas too !
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : Alaea Red Salt from Hawaii £3.65 for 120g, Vanilla Salt £2.60 for 80g
for more information : http://www.steenbergs.co.uk
Disclosure : I received the products in order to write an honest review.
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