Ask The Cook!

Are your egg whites not turning into peaks, no matter how long and for how hard you beat them? Having lumping problems when you try blending soup powder with water? Do you want to know how to use up those brown bananas at the bottom of the fruit bowl?

Have you got a cookery query that you’d like answered? A knotty kitchen problem that’s been driving you mad?

Why not Ask The Cook! Post all your problems – well, all your cookery problems that is – on this page and I’ll try and help you sort things out.

Caroline

Caroline

Food writer. Broadcaster. Blogger. Author. Married to Eight Degrees Brewing. Member of the Irish Food Writers' Guild, founder of Irish Food Bloggers Association and co-author of Sláinte: The Complete Guide to Irish Craft Beer & Cider (New Island)

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77 Responses

  1. Karina says:

    Hello Bibliocook!If it’s not a trade secret, I’d like to hear more about your easy but delicious Chicken with Garlic and Lemon.

  2. Caroline says:

    Karina: it’s definitely not a trade secret! Watch out for it in future posts as I’m bound to be cooking it soon.Update on 15 June: Here it is! Chicken with Garlic and Lemon

  3. Sue says:

    Caroline, due to the husband being a bit dopey sometimes I have a carton of double cream in my fridge (which he brought home thinking sure it’s the same as normal cream!) Am racking my brains trying to think of something to use it for… any ideas?

  4. Caroline says:

    Sue: he’s not far wrong, actually! It’s the butterfat content that makes the difference between double and normal cream – approximately 48% as compared to 35%. Because of this high butterfat content, it is less likely to separate if it boils while cooking – good if you’re using it for a sauce – but you do have to be careful when whipping it as it can easily turn to butter. Before whipping it, try adding 1 tablespoon of milk per half pint of cream as this will make it more stable, but make sure you keep an eye on it!

  5. Sue says:

    Nice one, Caroline, thank you. Will use it for a creamy pasta sauce and I’ll let you know how I get on…

  6. Sinéad says:

    Hi there!I came across a great recipe for an Asparagus, caramelised onion and Taleggio tart made with puff pastry. It sounds gorgeous, the recipe seems simple enough but Taleggio cheese (I’ve heard of it but have not idea of taste/texture etc) is proving hard to find in various supermarkets. Do you know if it’s similar to another, less-difficult-to-track-down cheese? I’d like to know more about Taleggio or if you could recommend a worthy substitute.Thanks in advance!Sinéad

  7. Caroline says:

    Sinéad: Mmm…Taleggio…wish I could get that here! It is a delicious Italian semi-soft cheese made from cow’s milk with a pungent, nutty taste and good melting properties.

    Apparently it has been produced in Lombardy since the Middle Ages and is cave aged. You should be able to track it down at Sheridans Cheesemongers in Dublin (there’s an interesting article about their monthly Cheese Club here) but alternatively you could use any favourite melting cheese – camembert or brie, for instance, or even mozzarella if you’re stuck although nothing can beat the real thing.

    Let me know how you get on with that gorgeous-sounding recipe. Caramelised onions are another favourite of mine. In fact last night I made the house stink of onions by making a big batch of them to liven up cheese sandwiches. Far better than any relish that you can buy.

  8. Sinéad says:

    Cheers Car, I’m planning to give it whirl in the next couple of weeks. I’ve mailed you the recipe so if you try it, let me know.

  9. Caroline says:

    Thanks for the recipe but unfortunately, it being winter, we’re long gone from asparagus season in New Zealand. The only asparagus available here at the moment is the horrible tinned stuff and I don’t think that I’ll be wasting my time with that! I’m sure there’s some variation that I could figure out. Best put on my thinking cap…

  10. Maria says:

    Hi Caroline,Love your website. Reading about baking soda bread with Nana and all the aunts brought back brilliant memories.Looking forward to hearing about the chicken with garlic and lemon….sounds delicious!

  11. Caroline says:

    Thanks Maria. Sometimes cooking is about more than trying to make a good meal, it’s about trying to capture a feeling from the past – Nana’s kitchen was a great place to grow up in and making the Brown Soda Bread reminded me of that.

    I really must get round to making that Chicken with Garlic and Lemon. I’ve been so busy experimenting lately that I’ve not had the chance to make some of my old reliables!

  12. epsomfilly says:

    Just found your site – I too love Nigel’s cook books – – currently reading Kitchen Diaries but I think Appetite is my favourite. Wondered if you could help me – my partner is allergic to coconut which means no laksa or thai curries I think! I’m wondering what I could use as a replacement – so far I tried a mix of creme fraiche and milk which worked but didn’t have any of the sweetness of coconut. Any ideas?

  13. Caroline says:

    I’m so jealous! You’ve The Kitchen Diaries already? I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on that book. Thirst hasn’t quite satisfied my longing for a new Nigel tome.

    I’ve been wracking my brains trying to think of an alternative for coconut milk. Have you tried evaporated milk? Still, that doesn’t have the sweetness that you’re looking for either. You could try normal milk for the main and just use a few spoons of condensed milk to add sweetness and the all-important creamy mouthfeel. Greek yoghurt, although not very sweet, is a good ingredient in curries as well. Let me know how you get on and if I come up with any brainstorms I’ll let you know!

  14. Abby says:

    I have made chocolate chip cookies numerous times and they have turned out perfect. However, the last two times I have made them they haven’t turned out well at all. They stick to then non-stick cookie sheet and are real flat and it seems no matter how long I leave them in, the centers don’t get done. The only thing different that I have done was not included the salt in the recipe, because I was told that salt was optional, and that it didn’t really matter if you included it. Does salt really make that big of a difference, or am I just cursed..lol?

  15. Caroline says:

    That’s a really interesting question, Abby. For a proper answer, you should probably try getting your hands on a copy of Harold McGee’s McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopaedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture which is filled with fascinating facts of this sort.

    For myself, I think that baking, unlike cooking, is a science and, like with a scientific experiment, if you leave out one of the ingredients, things don’t work correctly. I know that even a pinch of salt used while baking makes a difference in the taste and it’s especially essential in bread as it helps the yeast to work. I wouldn’t think that you’re cursed – try using salt the next time and see what happens.

    UPDATE May 2006: It’s taken a while, Abby, but there’s a recipe on Kieran’s Ice Cream Ireland blog for bread soda-less Chocolate Chip Cookies. I haven’t tried them yet but, judging by the comments, anyone who has thinks they’re gorgeous. Best of luck!

  16. deirdre campbell says:

    my daughter in Australia is looking for soca bread recipie. If she is unable to get buttermilk what can she use to get the same effect?

  17. Caroline says:

    You could tell her to use soured milk, Deirdre. I normally add some lemon juice to ordinary milk to sour it and find that useful if I’m stuck. She shouldn’t have any problem in finding buttermilk in Australia, though – it was easier to find in New Zealand than it is in Ireland! If you look on this page, there’s details of stockists for Pauls Buttermilk throughout Australia.

  18. Mark says:

    I am marinading some steaks in red wine, garlic, olive oil and thyme. My question is can I use the marinade as a sauce, that is, can I reduce it and serve it over the steaks or is there a health concern?

  19. Caroline says:

    As far as I know, Mark, there’s no problem if you make sure to cook the marinade thoroughly. The only problem, if you have the steak sitting in the marinade for a while, is that it may separate when you’re trying to reduce it as a result of the juices released by the meat. Health-wise, it’s fine as long as you bring the marinade to the boil.

  20. Elisheva says:

    Hi! Why do all chocolate chip cookie recipes call for baking soda? I don’t like the flavor it adds, but I cannot find a good recipe without it. What can I do? Thank you.

  21. Caroline says:

    That’s a good question, Elisheva, and the reason that I haven’t responded to it sooner is that I’m trying to hunt down a recipe for you! I’m sure Harold McGee, the author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, would have an answer – as far as I know, the baking soda is to do with lightening the mixture as it is an alkaline substance. You shouldn’t, however, be able to taste this from your cookies unless you’re adding way too much.

  22. I am making lasagne and i stumbled upon your delightful site. I am just wondering if you have a recipe sheet for a tasty succulent lasagne? If you could reply to my email address I would be most grateful. Thanks again.Yours Sincerly,Katie Mac Donagh

  23. Caroline says:

    Hi Katie. Thanks for your kind comments. You really can’t beat homemade lasagne – it’s something that I haven’t made in a while but now you’ve given me a yearning for it! In the absence of a recipe (for the moment!) I’ll direct you to the queen of British cookery, Delia Smith, and her recipe for Lasagne al Forno. And remember, any Bolognese sauce always tastes better with a good glug of red wine. It’s a great way to use up any left-over dregs – and add flavour to your lasagne.

  24. Leslie says:

    I have been cooking yorkshire puddings alot lately and each and every time I cook them they look beautiful fat and puffy in the oven in their muffin tins but once I take them out and try to remove them from the pan they colapse and end up like pancakes. What am I doing wrong??

  25. Caroline says:

    I’m sure there have been more tears cried over Yorkshire Puddings than many more complicated recipes. You take the puddings from the oven, looking gorgeous, but then – when you try to remove them from the tin – they just flatten. The safest recipe that I’ve discovered is from the second Stork Good Food Book. Use 125g plain flour to 2 eggs and 275ml milk for the batter and the most important things to remember are to heat your oven (to 220°C), heat your pan in the oven, and heat your fat in the hot pan in the hot oven before you add the batter. Then, when you take those lovely brown puffs from the oven, serve them immediatly. Yorkshire pudding does not like to sit around for too long. Good luck Leslie!

  26. denafar says:

    I would like to know if you can interchange muffin and cookie recipes? Is ok to use a muffinmix to make cookies?thank youdenafar

  27. Caroline says:

    Well, Denfar, you’d have some problems trying to manage that. A muffin – presumably we’re talking about American rather than English muffins – is designed to rise and have a soft crumb. A cookie is supposed to be flat and crisp. Why would you want to interchange the two recipes? Have you got a particular favourite muffin recipe that you’d like to make as a cookie? Let me know and I might be able to help.

  28. Alissa says:

    i’m a new cook who would like to start getting a cooking magizine that has to do with mre dinner like food. I would also like a magazine which has good and easy recipies. any suggestions?

  29. Caroline says:

    What part of the world are you in, Alissa? Delicious is a good one and it has both an Australian edition as well as an English one. Cuisine is the best NZ magazine but Taste is a little easier for a beginner – you can sign up for online recipes at http://www.taste.co.nz/

  30. Teresa McKee says:

    when a receip calls for dry white wine (French Onin Soup), what kind do I use?

  31. Caroline says:

    A Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc would probably be your best bet for French Onion Soup. I wouldn’t be too worried about it – just use a glass from whatever you’ve got open and drink the rest with your soup!

  32. Beth says:

    Is it safe to cook raw ground turkey in a slow cooker with other chili ingredients? How long should it cook before it’s edible?

  33. Dawn says:

    Do you know a good substitute for the corn syrup that the basic pecan pie recipe calls for? I’m concerned about corn syrup since I’ve been reading articles on it–how it is worse than sugar because of the refining process.For all recipes calling for corn syrup, what would you recommend as a substitute?Thanks

  34. Caroline says:

    Beth – lucky you to have a slow cooker! I got fascinated with them in New Zealand, there were loads of slow cooker – or crockpot – cookbooks around while I was there last year, and think I’m going to have to invest myself this winter.As long as you’re careful, there shouldn’t be any problems with using raw turkey in the slow cooker. As with all minced or ground meat, use within two days of buying it and, as it can contain E Coli bacteria, make sure you cook it thoroughly and there are no pink areas. Although, seeing as most slow cooker recipes recommend cooking meat for a couple of hours at least, you’ll have no problems with pinkness. There’s a very useful piece on crock pot cooking here. If you’re in any way worried about the safety of the mince, fry it before you add it to the other ingredients.

  35. Caroline says:

    Dawn – a friend of mine recently send me a link to Debra Lynn Dadd’s Sweet Savvy website and she has a recipe for Pecan Pie using barley malt syrup which might be useful. I don’t know much about sweeteners but it’s well worth taking a look round Debra’s site if you’re interested in sweetener alternatives. Let me know how you get on!

  36. Neva says:

    Hi Car,I’m looking for a calendar or chart which outlines which foodstuff fruit/veg/meat etc is in season for which month. Even though I was, as you know, brought up in the country I’m finding it difficult to remember whats good when and would like something to stick up in the kitchen to remind me. DO you know of anything?Ta.

  37. Caroline says:

    I’ve also been on the look-out for a chart or something like that but haven’t come across one yet. There’s a website called Eat The Seasons which lets you sign up for weekly updates, although that’s not so useful if you’re trying to plan ahead. Just came across a page on the Womens Food and Farming Union which might be the kind of thing that you’re looking for. Let me know what you think!

  38. Kat says:

    I have seen on many recipes that you should marinate your steaks in a glass bowl or plastic bag. Does it affect the flavor if you use Tupperware?

  39. Caroline says:

    Kat – sorry about the delay in getting back to you. The reason that you are always told to use a glass or stainless bowl or even a plastic bag is because the high amount of acid (from vinegar, lemon juice or wine) in the marinade may react with the container. Basically, you just need to use a non-reactive dish so Tupperware should be ok, although do bear in mind that the Tupperware may pick up the flavour from your marinade.

  40. beth says:

    I was looking over a recipe for tan slices. I learned about them on the web and the person thought they were delicious. I found a recipe for them but, not being australian, I don’t know what golden syrup is. Can you help? Thanks.

  41. Caroline says:

    Where are you based, Beth? Golden syrup is basically a very thick, very sugary syrup. As a kid I loved it on top of bread and butter, with pancakes or just eaten straight from the spoon! It’s very easy to find in a supermarket or any shop of a decent size in Ireland and England – I use the Lyle brand – and I think that you can use corn syrup as a substitute if you can’t track it down. Good luck with your search and, if you need a Tan Slice recipe, there’s also one here – it was one of the most popular things that I’ve ever made, beloved by my Scottish housemates in NZ and my 90-year-old Granny here in Ireland!

  42. Susie says:

    What kind of apples do I use for making apple pie?

  43. Caroline says:

    I always used cooking apples for a long time but, while in NZ and unable to find decent cookers, I got into the habit of trying out eating apples in tarts, pies and cakes. Basically, you can choose any apple that you like – or have handy – yourself!

  44. Susie says:

    I made chicken soup last night and put it in the fridge so the oil/fat would harden and I could easily take it off this morning. There is so much oil on the top this morning – it didn’t harden. How do I get this out?

  45. Darlene says:

    Why do I need to pre-heat my oven for most recipes??

  46. Caroline says:

    Susie, I would spoon the fat carefully off the top of the soup – it’s all risen to the top of the mixture now – and gently use kitchen towel to blot the final fat gobules off, without getting rid of too much of that gorgeous soup. Good luck with it!Darlene, the reason why all recipes say to preheat the oven is because you need to cook your dish, be it a stew or, more importantly, a cake, at a particular temperature. That’s why I always start my recipes with an instruction to preheat the oven – there’s nothing more frustrating than getting half way through a recipe and realising that you should have turned on the oven when you started it. Meanwhile, as you wait for the oven to heat to the correct temperature, the baking powder in your cake is reacting with the liquid, making CO2 and, without the heat of the preheated oven to bake the batter around the gas, things start to flop. Pancakes are fine – if that’s what you intend to cook!

  47. tammie says:

    can any one tell me how to make mince pies. id be gratefull if they could email recipe to my email address. bubblytam@aol.comthanks tammie

  48. Caroline says:

    Tammie, if you’re looking for a good recipe try Delia’s Traditional Mince Pies – she’s always easy to follow and things rarely go wrong! If you’re not interested in making pastry, there’s also a good one on the BBC Food site, always worth a look round. Hope it goes well for you!

  49. Jackie says:

    Hi,I have a great recipe for truffles that contains condensed milk in the ingredients. I wanted to use them as gifts and was wondering if I can send them in the mail because of the milk. Will they still be good?Thanks!

  50. Caroline says:

    Hi Jackie. You shouldn’t have any problems at all with the condensed milk in the truffles sitting around for a few days in the mail. Condensing the milk means that it is preserved and keeps very well, as anyone who has left a opened tin of it at the back of their fridge knows! Enjoy your Christmas cooking.

  51. Chau says:

    Hi,How long does an opened bottle of dry marsala wine for cooking last?Thanks!

  52. Becky says:

    Hi,my friend has just made a tomato sauce using tinned organic tomatoes.The recipe is the same basic one she has made before successfully,with the addition of fresh mushrooms.To her suprise the sauce has the taste of worcester sauce!Have you any ideas as to why this is?I suggested that it may be a reaction of the acid from the tomatoes with the mushrooms but she says that it hasn’t hapend before.Thanks Becky.From U.K.

  53. CRYSTAL says:

    The last two times Ive made garlic bread, the garlic has turned green after its done baking. I dont think Im doing anything different than before, but this is gross! I make a paste with fresh garlic & kosher salt, then I mix the paste with melted butter and some black pepper. I use french bread. Please help me I dont want to be scared of making garlic bread anymore!

  54. Caroline says:

    Chau: Because marsala is a fortified wine and high in alcohol I would think that an opened bottle would last for quite a while as long as it is recorked and kept in a cool, dry, dark place. Just taste it if you have doubts – you’ll soon know if it’s off.Becky: I really don’t know why this happened. I’ve made tomato sauces in the past with mushrooms included and haven’t had a Worcestershire sauce flavour. Perhaps the tinned tomatoes were strongly flavoured already? Sorry I can’t be more helpful!Crystal: I think the most important question is how did it taste? The information I can find on your garlic turning green suggests that it should not affect the flavour. Apparently the colour change can come about from iodine in table salt but if you’re using kosher salt that should be fine. The sulfur compounds in garlic can react with copper to form copper sulfate, which a blue or blue-green compound. Are you using copper utensils when you make your garlic butter? Apparently the tiny amount of copper found in normal water supplies can cause this reaction as well. Hopefully if you avoid table salt, copper dishes or forks and water you should be able to clear up the problem!

  55. kirsten says:

    When making creme brulee, i cracked open one egg and found 2 yolks.would you count that as 2 yolks? or just one?

  56. Caroline says:

    Wow! Double yoked eggs – I haven’t come across them in a long time. When I was a kid we used to get lots of them in the eggs from my Nana’s farmyard but it doesn’t seem to be happening in any of the eggs that I buy. I would treat the double yoke as one as they normally tend to be smaller than normal egg yokes. Hope your creme brulée works out well.

  57. Lynda says:

    Why is it said to be better to use day old bread when making bread and butter pudding and summer puddings??

  58. sheri says:

    Is broth and consomme the same?

  59. Monique says:

    I have a problem when cooking a double crust pie in a alcan platethe bottom crust never cookscould you tell me what to do?

  60. James says:

    Where in Ireland can I buy a tajine dish to cook some of this food?

  61. Caroline says:

    Lynda: Bread and Butter and Summer Puddings were originally recipes invented to use up older bread. When I was a child we’d always be on the lookout for leftover bread as Bread and Butter Pudding was sure to follow! Nowdays, if you don’t have bread sitting around to be used up, it is still better to start with slightly stale day-old bread because it seems soaks the egg and milk/cream custard mix up much better than fresh bread.Sheri: regarding broth and consomme, from my experience of American recipes they do indeed seem to be the same thing. Perhaps it’s just a matter of naming conventions!Monique: I’ve found the best way of making sure that bottom pie, tart and quiche crusts are cooked is by putting a baking sheet into the oven when I turn it on to preheat. When it’s at the right temperature, pop your filled alcan plate on to the sheet and cook as normal. This method ensures that the base is getting enough heat from the tray so that it bakes through. You could also try baking your bottom pie crust blind (you’ll find instructions for that here.James: I must admit that I have never used the tagine dish that I so laboriously dragged back to Ireland from Morocco! When I’m cooking Moroccan food I usually use my cast iron casserole but you could just use any casserole dish.

  62. Martha says:

    Hi CarolineI’ve got a culinary dilemma. I really want to ask a couple of our friends round to dinner, but they’re both vegetarian, one can’t eat wheat or pulses, and as you know I don’t have an oven so everything has to be either cooked on the hob or the grill – and they had us round a while ago and cooked an absolutely lovely lasagne type thing, so I’d like to make a bit of an effort, (rather than just do a deli shop picnic thing!) Help!Martha

  63. Caroline says:

    Sorry about the delay, Martha – I’m sure the friends have been and gone at this stage! If you’re still looking for ideas, you could try a kind of tagine-style veggie stew – like this one, but replace the chicken and chickpeas with mixed seasonal vegetables (carrots, squash, green beans, peas, aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes whatever you’re having yourself) and throw in a decent handful of green olives and several quartered artichoke hearts (you can find perfectly edible ones in tins) as well. I make this in the oven but you could definitly do it on top of your cooker. As couscous, bulgar and flatbreads are out, maybe you could serve it with saffron potatoes? I’ve been meaning to make this recipe for the longest time – if you try it out let me know how you get on!

  64. emy says:

    Hello,I am having a wedding and on a very tightbudget. So tight that STRICTLY only familywill be allowed to go to the reception. Sincehalf of the people invited to the wedding won;tbe attending the reception i wanted to make themsomething to fill thier tummies a bit. I found a recipe to make chocolate covered oreos and i am sure i can make at least 3 or 5 of these per person.Only problem is since i will be decorating the church, reception, and arranging the flowers myself i was hoping to make these cookies far in advance and last a 6 hour trip!!!The wedding is on a friday and i leave sc to florida ( where the wedding will be) on wendsday.I was thinking make them all between monday and tuesday wrap them up and keep them cool. do you think i can freeze them? or will they hold well at room tempurature? can i just refrigerate them and keep them cool during the trip then back into a fridge once we get there? i dont; want anyone to get sick! >

  65. Lynn says:

    What can you do with leftover roast (pork or beef) that has become a bit dried out?

  66. Rachel says:

    if you add little bits of ham and cheese to scrambled eggs, is it considered an omelette if you still mix it like a scrambled egg?

  67. ethel says:

    Help!I have made Bittman’s bread twice from a receipe I found on your blog a few weeks ago. It tastes great, but I have a problem it does not seem to rise at all at the second stage. And even though I thought that it was sitting in lots of flour today it still stuck to the greaseproof, very hard to get it into the mad hot cookery pot.Watching Bittman and the baker on the video they seem to be able to handle the bread that is impossible with my wet mix.Can you advise?Ethel

  68. Ann says:

    I have been given two frozen lobsters. They are coloured red. Can I assume that they have been cooked? Are they ready to eat when thawed and can I rely on them being safe to eat?

  69. ross says:

    hello,I found a comment left on a forum regarding chickpea flour and the difficulties finding it in Ireland. Any suggestions as to whether I can find it in Cork city? It’s for a delicious Sicilian dish called ‘panelle’!any info is much appreciatedRoss

  70. Laura says:

    Hi,I hope you can answer two questions for me:I intend to have wraps for a family gathering of 12 for lunch.1- About 8 years ago I would buy these large wraps that were Eastern I think. They would come 2 to a package in a large square flat cardboard envelope from the refrigerator section. They were about 18 or 20 inches in diameter. (I would buy them at VONS) I have been looking for this product at different food stores but they seem to have disappeared. I don’t want to make them with flour tortillas, because of the flavor, fat and diameter. Anybody know where I can find them? (I live in Southern California area)If I cover the wraps in plastic is it a good idea to prepare them the night before the gathering, or must I make them in the morning. Any suggestions?

  71. Becky McNabb says:

    Recently I had breakfast in a small Arkansas cafe. I ordered a bowl of oatmeal that took 30 minutes at a not so busy time of the morning. When I received it, it was well worth the wait. It was extremely creamy. How do I make oatmeal like that? I believe it had brown sugar in it.

  72. Alan Bulcraig says:

    Hi Caroline,I’m writing due to a culinary problem. I’ve been invited to Ashleigh’s parents for Christmas and I’m to make a dessert for Christmas Eve. I was thinking of doing a sticky toffee pudding that is simple yet effective. As you are aware, I’m not the best cook in the world (you may recall the thai green sausage curry). Any suggestions please?

  73. Christa says:

    I have a question regarding cooking with white sugar. I make a whole berry cranberry sauce every year with cranberries, oranges and pineapple. My family loves it but I always have trouble cooking the cranberries with white sugar. The recipe calls for 1 lb of cranberries to be heated until they almost pop. While you are heating them, you are supposed to stir in 2 cups of sugar. Every year I try to do this and the sugar always cooks into little hard pieces. I started not using so much sugar in hopes that I could prevent this from occurring, but my husband told me this year that the cranberries were too tart and it needed more sugar. How can I dissolved the sugar with the cranberries so that it doesn’t make sugar candy?Thanks so much, Christa

  74. Woah! This is what happens when you don’t check certain areas of your blog for a while. Firstly, apologies to everyone for not being more prompt with my answers. And without further ado…

    Christa: I too make a Cranberry Sauce for Christmas (here flavoured with orange and port) but I haven’t had any problems with the sugar. I suspect that your problem is because you’re stirring the sugar and cranberries while heating them together. I think you’re better off cooking the cranberries first until they pop, then add the sugar and stir. Best of luck!

    Alan: ah, that Thai Green Sausage Curry! If I do remember correctly, you made it the day after I had been over-indulging in champagne. I think I almost remember the smell…but probably safer not! Sorry that this answer is so late but I think that your Sticky Toffee Pudding idea is perfect. Nigella has a great foolproof one and you’ll find the recipe here.

    Becky: It is difficult to know what went into that bowl of oatmeal but, when I want a creamy, comforting bowl of heaven, I use half milk/half water (as here) to make my porridge.

    Laura: What you’re describing sounds like the sheets of unleavened Turkish flatbread that I could buy in New Zealand. Unfortunately, I have no idea where you might find it in Southern California. Regarding pre-making the wraps, I think that you’re best preparing them as close to the time of eating as possible. Otherwise you run the risk of them drying out or, alternatively, getting soggy, neither of which is a great option!

    Ross: I know that I’ve seen chickpea flour, also known as chana flour or besan, at Mr Bell’s oriental and Middle Eastern stalls in the English Market so it would definitely be worth checking there.

    Ann: Without seeing them it is difficult to know but it does sound like the lobsters have been cooked. As for safety, that depends on how quickly they were frozen after cooking. Check with whoever gave them to you. After thawing, I would split the lobsters in half, brush the flesh liberally with butter, and heat at 180˚C/350˚F for 15 minutes.

    Ethel: I feel your pain! I have had great success with that Bittman recipe – and I have also spent ages scraping the runny dough off the worktop. The only advice I can really give you is to use LOTS of flour, much more than you think you’ll need and maybe cut down a little on the water if the weather is especially damp. I know that the worst times I’ve had with that bread dough have been when there’s rain in the air and, consequently, my atmosphere and flour is damp.

    Rachel: No, that would still be scrambled egg.

    Lyn: Leftover roast pork or beef shouldn’t be too bad if sliced thickly and reheated gently in some leftover gravy. Beef could always be minced and turned into Cottage Pie – there’s a recipe for it over on Recipezaar.

    Emy: I very much doubt if anyone would get sick from Chocolate Covered Oreos but, if you’re worried, why not delegate and get someone closer to the reception to make them and deliver them on the day. It sounds like you have more than enough on your plate already.

  75. Renee Barrett says:

    Hello Caroline,Could you possibly email me the recipe for the Teabrack which was in one of Paula Daly’s McDonnell’s Good Food Cook books?I think it was the first cookbook. I mislaid the recipe which I had kept and I am not sure of the quantities of mixed fruit and flour required.The Teabrack was a great favourite with some of the family years ago.Thanks very much.Regards,Renee

  76. Joshua says:

    Ok, I have a little bit of a strange question for you… but I didn’t quite know who to ask… so I figured… “why not ask a cook?”, right?Ok, so my younger brother asked me a question that I was sure I had the answer to today. He asked me to confirm that he was right in thinking a banana was a nut. I said yes and his teacher says no. Up until now I was so convinced that I was right that I never bothered to research it further and left well enough alone. Now that the seed of doubt has been planted, I went to the internet to look for what I thought was going to be an easy to find answer. Apparently the topic of weather a banana is or is not a nut isn’t exactly a hot one on the web. In fact… not only does no one seem to have the answer, but it looks like I’m the only one to ever ask the question. Plenty of websites state that it’s a fruit… but plenty of sites still cant tell you straight out if a tomato is a fruit or a vegitable… so I dont look at them as reliable sources. Please… put my mind at rest. Is a banana a nut… or isn’t it?

  77. Vicky says:

    Hi, I was wondering have you got a good recipe for french madelines? I can’t seem to find a find a good one. Hope you can help?

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