Even the best home cooks do it from time to time. That generous pinch of cayenne pepper turned out to be a little too generous. You mistook hot chilli powder for mild (oops!), the rice vinegar flowed a little too freely, or the lid popped off the salt, turning your pasta sauce into a snow scene.
And, rookie mistake though it may be, it is sometimes possible to mistake ‘tsp’ for ‘tbsp’ if you’re in a hurry...
Over-seasoning can make your delicious meal seem almost inedible, but there are solutions to keep your dinner from the bin.
Here’s how to rescue that meal and make it tasty again.
Liquidy dishes like soups, stews and sauces can be rescued with extra liquid, vegetable water is best, then bringing it back to a simmer before serving. You can always add some extra herbs or spice if it begins to taste a little bland (not too much, now).
If that bulks up your dish so it’s more than you can eat, simply freeze the leftovers. Another night’s dinner, sorted.
Salty veg, potatoes and fish can be rescued with a squeeze of lemon juice or a drizzle of white wine vinegar, which will help to mask the saltiness.
Creaminess is another saviour. A salty taco filling or steak salad can be tempered with sour cream or cubes of avocado (adding extra deliciousness, too).
And how’s this for a clever trick? Throw a raw potato into the pot. It will absorb much of the salt and also add some starch to the dish, further diluting the saltiness. Just remember to remove before serving...
You can drown out some of the over-spicing by adding more liquid - extra stock to a soup, for example, or an extra tin of toms to your chilli con carne.
An inferno-hot curry can be helped with a tin of coconut milk, while serving with cooling, plain yogurt or sour cream will also dampen the flame.
But what if you don’t have the right ingredient to hand? A little sugar or honey from the store cupboard will help neutralise chilli heat. And, for dishes such as pad Thai and stir fries, a spoonful of nut butter - peanut or almond - or tahini works a treat.
Or try this trick, often used in Indian cooking. Squeeze a lime or two into a burning hot chilli dish or curry. The acidity can cut through intense heat.
You could also use vinegar, lemon juice or chopped tomatoes - whatever best complements your dish.
The natural sweetness in some ingredients, such as root veg, beef and lamb, can result in a dish that tastes a little too sugary. Fragrant spices like cinnamon and star anise, often used in Moroccan cooking, can also infuse meals with too much sweetness if not used sparingly.
Resist the urge to add more salt which can actually heighten the sweetness. Instead, a squeeze of lemon juice or splash of vinegar will bring back the savoury flavours.
If it suits the dish, a spoonful of plain yogurt (unsweetened, obviously) will restore balance.
Equally, a little spicy seasoning will even out the sweetness. Dinner’s back on, people!
You know that feeling when you take a forkful of food and, instead of making you smile, your face threatens to collapse in on itself?
Too much vinegar or citrus juice is probably to blame for causing ‘sour face’. And it’s easy to do - glugging too much in your salad dressing, getting a little overzealous with the lemon zest.
You can restore balance to dressings and drizzles by stirring in a little sugar or agave syrup. Tomatoes are naturally acidic, so adding chopped carrots to a sauce that needs a little sweetness will work wonders.
If you’ve made a stir-fry or noodle dish and been a little slapdash with the rice vinegar, slosh in a little soy sauce. The savoury, ‘umami’ quality will rescue your meal.
Some herbs and spices such as parsley, paprika and cayenne pepper can lend a bitterness to foods when used in large quantities.
Balance with its flavour opposite - acidity. A squeeze of citrus juice, vinegar or tangy yogurt will help. Or you can add a little sugar to neutralise the flavour.
Sometimes it’s an ingredient, rather than the seasoning, that brings the bitterness to the table. Kale, collard and mustard greens, for example.
If you’ve added these to a soup or stew, or are serving a big bowl of greens as a side dish, balance the bitterness with a little fresh, grated nutmeg.
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