Flavour trees: making flavours fun!
Flavour combinations … we’ve all had that amazing moment when you take a bite of a meal and suddenly realise you have the most amazingly perfect combination of flavours in your mouth.
Nailing a flavour combination takes a reasonable amount of skill though, so how can you teach kids who are learning to cook about flavours? How can you explain which combinations work and which don’t or how a cook can use a few simple herbs to conjure memories and tastes of a country on the other side of the world?
Imagine that the different herbs of a flavour palate are the roots, they grow together in the trunk and then sprout out branches that are all different combinations of the flavours… recipes!
If you take Thai food as an example (and it is a great one because it has distinctive flavours and is quick and easy for kids to cook, plus it’s delicious) you would create a flavour tree by putting ingredients like lime, garlic, chilli, white vinegar, soy, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and Thai basil as the roots, and you could then have recipes like massaman beef, green curry and a whole variety of stir-fries at the top.
It’s fun and exciting (as well as educational) for kids to imagine the flavour combinations and then experiment with them.
And who knows, if you spend an afternoon making a flavour tree they might even have cooked you dinner by the end of it!
The Five basic Tastes: Salty,sour, spicey,bitter sweet,
They need to see a map of the country when looking at the flavours. Some countries border on so many countries that the influences for cooking come from the border countries plus the conquerors of that country. For example, Thailand has French influence as well as shifting from cooler to tropical.
Flavours: Made with spices and herbs.
Thai – Lime, Bird’s eye chilies, white vinegar, basil, Fish sauce, palm sugar, soya sauce, garlic, lemongrass.
Chinese - onion, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, five spice, bean sprouts, carrots, shallots. (North, South, East, West styles of food).
Japanese - onion, sesame seeds, soya sauce, mirin (like a sake), soba noodles.
Indonesian - curry powder, coconut milk, peanuts, carrots, sambal oelek.
Indian - curry powder, cardamon, coriander, turmeric, Asafoetida, cumin, fennel seeds.
Italian – Parsley, oregano, sage, garlic, ginger, vanilla.
Instructions for making a flavour tree:
- Fill in main Herbs & Spices for that country/style cooking at roots.
- Look for recipes with these in them or create your own.
- Write recipe on paper, fold and stick to tree.
- Hang tree on board or in kitchen to use.
Below is a full sized Flavour Tree template for you to print out.