Here are a few questions and answers from our recent cooking events, which seem to crop up time and again. Here’s Mikhail with latest batch.
Journey Along the Loire
Q “How can you tell when a mussel is bad?”
A Place live mussels in a large bowl of water. If they float or point upwards, they have toxic gasses inside. This is bad news – so discard them. If any are open, tap them on a hard surface and a healthy specimen will close tightly. If not….discard! Also, after cooking the mussels, only eat from shells that are fully open. Discard the rest. Potentially there can be high levels of wastage, however, no risks should ever be taken with shellfish. They can be killers!
Q “What is the best oil for frying? We always use olive oil for everything.”
A Olive oil has become readily available and relatively inexpensive. However, there are some rules to be followed about its use. Firstly only ever use cold pressed extra virgin olive oil – any other product is processed and all the healthy qualities are literally fried away! Extra Virgin oil should be used more as a condiment, lending rich aromas and flavours to your dishes. Never fry at a high temperature. If you notice a blue haze coming from the pan, discard. This is potentially carcinogenic. If you like the flavour then blend with a seed oil with neutral character such as sunflower or rapeseed.
South East Asian Banquet
An international gathering of colleagues preparing an exotic meal from the east! Much fun was had by all, many of course had never seen the ingredients in their raw state. Fresh turmeric, fresh tamarind, kaffir lime leaves, pandan leaves and candle nuts. There was a good deal of discussion about the Kai Lam – a Chinese green – as to its origins and what it might be associated with in our European gardens – any comments?