we’re here to help Each month we ask our foodies for their expert tips and ideas for our kitchen queries.
QIs chopping vegies a few days ahead bad for them? I am a big fan of pre-prepping vegies for super-quick lunches and dinners. Once vegetables are peeled and chopped, they do deteriorate faster than those in their whole state due to increased oxygen exposure, so keep them in airtight containers or sealable bags. In regards to nutrients, all fresh vegetables will start to lose water-soluble vitamins from the time they are picked, so the trick is not to store them for too long. There are, however, significant advantages of preparing vegies ahead of time. Being organised means you’ll be more likely to make good choices at mealtimes, and that is a big tick for me.
QHow do you cook rice in the microwave? This is really easy – you just need to ensure all the steam is trapped. There are lots of inexpensive microwave rice containers on offer or you can use a large microwave-safe bowl with a double layer of plastic wrap to seal. Add 2 cups of rice and enough water to cover by 2cm. Cover and cook on High (800 watts) for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to Medium (500 watts) and cook for another 7 minutes. Let the rice rest for a few minutes to continue cooking, then use a fork to separate the grains. Any jasmine or basmati rice will work using this method. You can stir through dried spices, such as saffron, turmeric, cardamom pods or cinnamon sticks before cooking or toss some fresh herbs through at the end.
QHow do I remove avocado skin without damaging the flesh? Start by removing the seed. Slice the avocado in half lengthways, around the seed. Then, gently twist the halves so they come apart. Use a small spoon to scoop out the seed and discard. Place the avocado halves, cut side down, on a clean work surface. Use your fingers or a sharp paring knife to gently peel away the skin, starting at the stem end. This should leave you with 2 perfect firm pieces of avocado that you can slice or dice. A quick tip if you’re in a rush is to use a large spoon to scoop out the flesh in one piece. Hold the avocado half, cavity side up, in your palm. Starting at the round end, simply slide the spoon between the flesh and skin.
QCan I substitute light cream for regular cream in desserts? Light cream is a great option for savoury dishes, but some desserts need the full-fat version, usually when they require the cream to be whipped. When you need light and fluffy clouds of cream, for topping or layers, it is best to use the full-fat version as it aerates and holds its shape better. Pavlovas, trifles and mousses are good examples. But if the cream doesn’t need to be whipped, light cream is fine – think chocolate sauce, ganache or desserts such as panna cotta and custards.
QWhy don’t my eggs peel neatly? One of the reasons eggs don’t peel well is that the proteins in egg whites become sticky when heated, so they grip the membrane inside the shell. The protein in fresher eggs also seems to be stickier than in older eggs. So I suggest using slighty older eggs to boil. Once cooked, plunge into iced water until cool enough to handle. Lightly tap on a work surface to crack all over, then peel under cold running water.