Your questions answered.
QWhat is kecap manis and how do I use it in cooking? Kecap manis is an aromatic, sweetened soy sauce from Indonesia, thicker than Japanese soy sauce. You can add a dash to marinades or stir-fries to give dishes a lovely dark caramel colour and rich umami flavour. Traditionally, it’s often used in noodle and rice dishes, like Indonesian nasi goreng, but I love drizzling it on avocado toast or adding a few teaspoons to a bolognaise sauce for added colour and flavour. It has a strong, treacle-like flavour so just remember that a little goes a long way!
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QWhat can I do to help my bread dough rise on a cold day? I was lucky enough to learn a super-cool trick from a pro – none other than Adriano Zumbo! In cooler weather, proving bread dough is harder as warmth is needed to allow the fermentation process to begin. Adriano’s trick is to add enough boiling water to your sink to cover the base with a depth of about 2cm. Place a wire rack in the sink, making sure it is sitting above the water. Place the bowl containing the dough on the rack and cover the whole sink with a tea towel. This creates a warm environment that your dough is going to love and grow well in. Replace the water in the sink when it becomes cold to keep the area warm.
QHow do I substitute wholemeal flour for plain flour in baking? You can use wholemeal flour instead of plain flour in many recipes, such as cakes, muffins and pikelets. They have similar calories, but wholemeal has three times the fibre, twice the potassium and three times the folate, as well as more calcium. As a rule of thumb, try using half wholemeal and half plain as a starting point and if the outcome is to your liking, increase from there. Some recipes will turn out well with 100 per cent wholemeal, but others will end up too dry or dense, so go slowly to begin with. Because wholemeal is heavier than white, you generally need to use a little less. For every 1 cup plain, use 1 cup wholemeal minus 1 tablespoon (or add a little extra liquid).
QHow do I adjust a casserole recipe for a slow cooker? Although there is no strict formula, a casserole in the slow cooker will require less liquid than when cooked on the stovetop or in the oven. Because the slow cooker is covered during cooking, liquid doesn’t evaporate and reduce, plus the steam that circulates also adds extra liquid. So, start by halving the amount of liquid in the original recipe. If it tells you to add enough stock to cover the meat, with a slow cooker you only need to cover about a half to two-thirds. As for cooking times, if a dish takes 11 ⁄ 2- 3 hours in the oven or on the stovetop, it will take 4-6 hours on High or 6-8 hours on Low in a slow cooker.
QWhich type of pumpkin is best for pumpkin soup? I like to use butternut pumpkin for soup, as it has a sweet nutty flavour and smooth, velvety texture once cooked. It is a firm, dense pumpkin so it will help create a rich, thick and creamy soup. Kent (or Jap) pumpkin has softer flesh and although it’s full of flavour, it tends to produce a thinner soup. For extra richness, try caramelising pumpkin by roasting it until soft and golden before adding to your soup.