One of the French tastes I relish most are the various butters with large flakes of Fleur de sel de Guérande embedded in their mass. On my most recent visit to France, however, I discovered an even greater excuse to indulge my salt addiction.
Browsing in a small delicatessen in a little town in Burgundy, I came across a range of spices, oils, vinegars, sugars, peppers and, of course, salts by a company called Terre Exotique. It appealed to both the cook and the gourmand in me, but no less to the traveller to whom they held out the taste of indeed – exotic lands. There were tins of blended Aboriginal spices (€9.20 for 40g) that were rich in lemon zest and Tasmanian pepper for seasoning meat. There was powder of kaffir lime zest (€7.80 for 30g) from Indonesia with its zing of verbena, lemon grass, coriander and ginger; bags of brown cane sugar (€7.40 for 250g) from Reunion Island, and jars of black sesame cream (€11.50 for 85g). But what caught my attention were the salts.
I felt rising panic as I looked along the shelf and realised that I would like them all, but should only pick one. Would it be diamond salt (€9.30 for 60g), the mineral-rich rose salt crystals from the Himalayas, mixed with summer truffle? Or how about Fleur de sel with lime zest (from €4.20 for 40g), Persian blue salt (€8.50 for 250g), Halen Môn flake salt (€5.09 for 30g) from Anglesey – a favourite apparently of Barack Obama’s – or black lava salt from Hawaii (€4.80 for 20g). I toyed between Viking salt (€8.70 for 80g, second picture), which is smoky in taste and ground with onion, curry powder and black pepper and Salish salt (€5.60 for 80g, first picture), which is named after a native North American tribe whose original language was once known as “salish.” After a long discussion with the shopkeeper, I decided on the latter.
The smoky flavours envelop you the minute you lift the lid. The salt itself is finely ground and the crystals have been smoked over alder wood, giving it a rich charred smell, somewhat similar to the aroma of a bold, peaty whisky from the Scottish isles.
The most interesting salt I have ever tasted – my morning poached egg would forever be the poorer without it.
Want to showcase your salt in the most stylish of ways? We’ve got the pick of the finest salt sellers around – see salt cellars;L’Objet swan salt cellar; andSilver by Aston Martin, Vector salt and pepper pots