Why you should consider ditching your pans & cooking on giant salt slab
Jenny Kay gives cooking on a hefty block of pink Himalayan salt a bash - and she'll never grill a steak another way again
I thought slabs of salt licks belonged exclusively in the livestock domain until I stumbled across a pretty mottled pink, almost marble-like, salt slab that promised to change the way of cooking.
Like many things, it languished in the back of the cupboard until, prompted by the launch of Himalayan Salt Cooking, a cookbook by Liezel Maree, I was inspired to dig it out and put it to good use.
It's novel and fun to use, a natural, healthy seasoning - full of minerals - and can be used to cook on different heat sources: over a gas flame, in a large pan on the stove, in the oven and even on the braai. The only proviso? You preheat it on medium heat for at least 15 minutes before using.
The beauty of it is that, once heated, it retains heat for up to 20 minutes, away from the heat source, allowing food to be cooked at the table.
Cooking on the salt slab can be healthier as most dishes require little or no oil or butter - meaning there are also no greasy pots or baking trays to wash up. And, because the slab is antimicrobial, it needs only a scrub down after cooking. Using a cut lemon dipped in salt makes cleaning a breeze.
Cooking on the salt slab can be healthier as most dishes require little or no oil or butter
To demystify the pink slab, the cookbook introduction offers comprehensive dos and don'ts on how to master the slab, then goes on to a selection of recipes, from meat, chicken and fish to toasted sarmies, pizza and even scones cooked on the slab.
At the launch some of the tasters included a guacamole served in well-chilled salt serving bowls, baby potatoes and an oozing, well-flavoured baked camembert.
The highlight was watching Maree take a chocolate ganache spread, spoon it onto a frozen slab, sprinkle it with nuts, chilli, seeds and fruit - and in minutes there were homemade choccies.
At home, the pink slab has become a favourite way of cooking a good well-aged steak. Simple to cook, no washing up and the steak is tender, a little smokey with just the right amount of saltiness.
TRY SOME RECIPES FROM HIMALAYAN SALT COOKING
GOOEY CAMEMBERT WITH MAPLE BACON AND FIGS
1 camembert wheel
4 strips of bacon
2 large figs in syrup, halved
30ml (2 tbsp) maple syrup (you can use ordinary syrup or honey)
250ml (1 cup) of mixed greens (baby rocket works well)
Melba toast or crackers
- Preheat salt block on the oven rack at 140°C, allowing the block to heat up slowly*.
- Flash fry the bacon in a pan and remove before it starts to crisp.
- Carefully remove the salt block with oven gloves and place it on a heat-resistant surface.
- Adjust oven rack to grilling position and switch over to the grilling element. Place bacon strips on hot salt block, drizzle with maple syrup and place under the grill.
- Watch the bacon closely as it starts to caramelise, and remove with tongs.
- Remove salt block from the oven, taking care as it will be hot, and place on a wooden board.
- Place camembert on salt block now covered in maple syrup and bacon fat and watch it change into a gooey, warm mess.
- Serve immediately topped with greens, bacon, figs and toast.
*Not suitable for gas oven, use salt block in an electric oven only.
MAPLE AND SOY MARINATED SALMON LOLLIPOPS WITH BURNT LIMES
1kg salmon fillet, cut into 5cm thick slices
125ml (½ cup) maple syrup (you could use syrup)
75ml (5 tbsp) soy sauce
Dash of ground black pepper
A couple of limes, halved
Pickled ginger, optional
- In a small bowl, mix the syrup, soy sauce and pepper. Place the salmon in a shallow glass baking dish and coat with the syrup mixture. Cover the dish, and marinate the salmon in the fridge for 30 minutes, turning once.
- Heat the salt block until sizzling hot. You can do this by placing block directly onto gas hob or by placing block in a heavy-based pan on an electric stove.
- Drizzle olive oil on the slab carefully, taking care not to spill over the sides (this is why I like the heavy-based pan method).
- Sear the fish slices on both sides, approximately 30 seconds a side.
- While the salmon is searing, place the limes, cut side down, on the slab until browned and sweet smelling.
- Serve on sticks with burnt limes and pickled ginger.
• 'Himalayan Salt Cooking' by Lizel Maree is published by Premio Trading, R299. Salt block are available for purchase online.
• Additional reporting by Hilary Biller.