We all know the well-known food combinations that have become traditional companions to each other: lamb and mint or rosemary, pork and apples, cauliflower and cheese sauce – the list goes on and on. Today, chefs and home cooks have either accidentally or purposefully put foods together that our great grandparents would never have thought of combining. Flavour combinations are getting bolder and wilder with sweets combined with savoury foods, and dishes such as salt, chocolate and caramel have become very popular. The addition of a touch of salt really enhances the chocolate or caramel flavour and has become a staple combination in many recipes.
Chefs are constantly looking to press the boundaries of flavour combinations to entice customers into their establishments. Try by experimenting at home and you could come up with your own hot new food flavour combination.
Butternut squash and Miso
Miso paste is widely used in Japanese cooking and gives flavour to soups and broths. Its flavour is classified as umami and goes with the other tastes of sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. It is a salty, savoury flavour that adds to many foods, but butternut squash and its sweetness go well with the rich, salty flavour of Miso.
Chocolate and avocado
Chocolate is a whole food that does not sound like it would go with anything mildly savoury except for a touch of salt. Many South Americans put chili in their hot chocolate, but combining avocado with chocolate is not common. The addition of avocado to a chocolate dessert like truffles makes them silken in texture and rich. Not a lot of avocado flavour can be detected; it is more of a textural element.
Chocolate and sesame
Adding sesame seeds to chocolate as in a cookie brings out a nutty flavour not unlike peanuts. Toast the sesame seeds lightly and sprinkle on top of your favourite chocolate cookie recipe. It is a richer and more complex flavour combination than chocolate and peanut butter.
Caramel and goat cheese
Goat cheese has a lovely salty tang that makes it the perfect partner for sweet or rich foods. A caramel tart with a small dollop of goat cheese is a taste sensation as the tangy cheese cuts through the richness of the sweet caramel sauce.
Peanut butter and Sriracha
Sriracha is a spice blend that is both tasty and vinegary, and this adds some zing to your peanut butter. Sriracha is a city in Thailand where the sauce originated and is a hot sauce made from chilies, distilled vinegar, sugar, salt, and garlic. Put some hot sauce on top of your peanut butter and the vinegar in the sauce cuts straight through the fatty quality of the peanuts.
Chilli and mango
This is a surprisingly excellent combination of sweetness and heat. Try making a mango salsa to have with chicken or seafood and add a chopped red chili.
Basil and strawberries
Herbs can go quite well with fruit, and basil goes well with the sweetness of strawberries. The basil adds a slight peppery note to the fruit, and a frozen strawberry drink with the addition of basil is very refreshing in summer.
Ice cream and olive oil
This sounds extremely odd, but vanilla ice cream with added olive oil is smoother, richer, and creamier than ordinary ice cream. You can’t actually taste the olive oil; it just adds to the complexity of the flavour.
It is so common these days to see a salty product combined with a sweet one to add complexity of flavour as well as texture. Imagine sea salt flakes on top of a rich caramel tart. The sea salt adds a delightful crunch as well as a salty tang that cuts through the sweetness of the caramel. Try making up your own flavour combinations at home or watch your favourite cooking show and see what the cooks and chefs come up with.