The seasoning you need to know about - how to make chicken salt

Charlotte's DIY cream egg. Picture: Gregg Brown.

Charlotte's DIY cream egg. Picture: Gregg Brown. - Credit: Gregg Brown

The next big thing in home cooking.

I've been reading a really interesting (well, to me anyway) book recently. Gastrophysics by Professor Charles Spence. If you're not into food you probably wouldn't give it a second glance – although you might want to run your hands over the tactile pop-up Smarties cover.

To someone like me, who devours all knowledge of food obsessively, this has been a bedtime companion for a few days now. Between the sheets I've learnt about retronasal scents.

How the power of suggestion can affect the way we perceive what we're eating. And that steak dyed blue makes people want to throw up.

A part of the book which particularly stood out was in the Taste section, where Spence reveals there are probably more 'tastes' to be perceived than salt, sugar, butter et al.


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He cites the possibility that perhaps over a dozen 'tastes' exist. A potent newcomer to this arena is the exotic-sounding umami – a phrase lent to us from the Far East.

It's hard to exactly pinpoint the sensation of umami, which is savoury, sweet and salty all at once.

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Think of the sticky juices on the underside of a roast chicken. Or the unusually pleasing tang of yeast extract (unless you're in the 'hate' camp). Umami is the crust of a barbecued pork rib. The thread of blue through a ripe Stilton.

One of the latest buzzes in food very much belongs in the umami realms – chicken salt. Our Aussie cousins are going crazy for the stuff, which brings fries, roast potatoes, pretty much anything really, to life.

What's best is, it's dead simple to make at home, and it uses up leftovers. So, really, what's not to love?

The recipe here can be scaled up, but don't multiply the salt level; just add a tiny pinch more and taste as you go along. If you're nice to your local butcher, they'll probably sell you chicken skin for peanuts. Otherwise, make this when you have some chicken thighs in the fridge.

Chicken salt

(makes enough to season fries for up to four people)

Ingredients:

Skin from four large chicken thighs, 1/4tsp sea salt, 4 crushed peppercorns, 1/2tsp garlic powder, 1/4tsp dried rosemary (experiment with lemon thyme, oregano, sage and crushed coriander seeds too)

Method

Cut excess fat away from the skin and place them as flatly as possible in a baking tray. Cook at 130C for a couple of hours until crisp and golden. Blot on kitchen paper and squeeze away any grease (pouring excess from the tin too) and cook for a further 20 minutes.

Leave to cool in the oven.

Blitz with the other ingredients in a food processor. Line the tray with greaseproof paper and cook again at 180C for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then blitz again in a food processor and sprinkle over your chips!

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