Asian Recipes

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The Unrivaled Practical Guide for Asian Cooking

Is it really necessary to use a sugar syrup when making a fresh fruit salad?

No, but sugar syrup is useful when making a fruit salad than contains apples and pears. Adding them to a hot sugar syrup before adding other fruits helps to soften their crisp texture. And slicing bananas into cold syrup prevents them browning. Most fruits, however, are naturally quite juicy and sweet, needing only a sprinkling of caster sugar to help draw out their juice. Or you can use a natural fruit juice such as apple, orange or passion fruit juice as an alternative to syrup. Fruit can also be macerated with red or white wine and spirits such as brandy or rum, or liqueurs such as Cointreau or kirsch.

There are no rigid rules for making a fruit salad, the combinations being limited only by the cook's imagination. Simplicity is the key to success. Try to balance flavors, colors and textures. If you are using mainly soft fruits, add melon or pineapple for a contrasting texture. You could make a salad with a mixture of all citrus fruits, or try a selection of autumnal fruits such as apples, blackberries, pears and plums, or keep the range tropical.

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21:49:08 on 11/29/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the best way to store fresh fruit at home?

For the best flavour, you should buy or pick fruit that is ripe and ready to eat. But as fruit cannot always be bought daily, storing it under the right conditions will help to keep it fresh longer.

Grapefruit, lemons, melons, bananas, oranges and pineapple will keep well for several days in a fruit bowl at room temperature, especially if bought or picked just before they are ripe. However, you must be sure to keep these fruits away from direct sunlight.

Slightly under-ripe apricots, nectarines and peaches can be stored at room temperature to help them ripen, but fruit that is already ripe should be refrigerated. Apples and pears should be stored in the refrigerator to retain crispness.

Loose lemons, limes and passionfruit can be kept for several weeks in the refrigerator. Place them unwrapped in the salad drawer with enough room so that air can circulate around the fruit.

All berries are highly perishable and should be refrigerated as soon as you get them home. Put strawberries in a shallow colander standing on a plate and cover the top with another plate or foil. The holes in the colander will allow air to circulate around the fruit, keeping it dry. When berries become wet, their decomposition accelerates. Blackberries, loganberries and raspberries are best spread out on a large plate. Cover loosely with a lid, some foil or plastic wrap.

Cherries will keep for up to ten days in the refrigerator. Keep them wrapped loosely in a green, long-life storage bag. Ripe, exotic and tropical fruits and grapes are also best kept refrigerated. All refrigerated fruit should be brought back to room temperature before eating to bring out its full flavour.

Some supermarkets now sell fruit such as avocados labelled "ready to eat now". However, if you do intend to serve the fruit that very day, it is still best to test it for ripeness before purchase.

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08:00:16 on 11/27/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to tell when fruit is ripe?

A pleasing appearance is only one clue to the ripeness of fruit. Today, many fruits are artificially ripened without reaching their natural stage of maturity. Although these fruits may look attractive. they can nevertheless taste disappointing. It is important, therefore, to also use your senses of smell and touch when selecting the best fresh fruit.

Unwrinkled fruit that feels heavy for its size is likely to have a good juice content and a sweet flavour. Skins should be unblemished, free of bruises, splits and any signs of insect damage. Tough, dry, wrinkled skins on citrus fruits indicate that the rind has lost its essential oils and the zest will not be suitable for use in cooking.

The ripeness of many tree fruits, such as the dessert pear, plum, peach and nectarine can be ascertained by a light squeeze with the thumb; if the fruit yields to gentle pressure it should be nice to eat.

Berry fruits should be dry and undamaged. Check the packaging of berries for crushing, leakage or signs of mould or wetness. Test melons, pawpaws and pineapples for ripeness by sniffing the base of the fruit. An attractive, sweet, fresh fragrance indicates the fruit is ripe. Bananas develop freckled' skins when ripe.

Over-ripe fruit smells musty and often has soft, dark patches on the skin, indicating that the interior flesh also contains rotten patches.

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09:42:44 on 11/26/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Are there any foods that cannot be frozen satisfactorily?

Some foods do not freeze well because the texture is ruined. This is particularly true of fruits and vegetables with a high water content, such as bananas, cucumbers, lettuce and watercress, although some may be frozen in puree form. Whole strawberries keep their color and flavor well and are excellent for combining in mousses, but the texture deteriorates and they become too soft to be used whole when thawed. Full-fat milk separates after freezing, but skim and reduced-fat milks that have been homogenized may be frozen for up to a month.

Eggs cannot be frozen in their shells; however, both whites and yolks will freeze well, either lightly beaten together or separated. Emulsion sauces such as mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce do not tend to freeze well because they will separate when thawed.

Jellies, both savory and sweet, lose their texture if frozen and would have to be reboiled and allowed to set again after thawing. Curries freeze well, although after three months the spices will change flavor and may become peppery or fade. The flavor of garlic-laden foods, for example soups and casseroles, will intensify during freezing and can become unpleasantly strong.

15:23:28 on 11/25/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is it safe to eat frozen sandwiches after thawing?

It is well worth making sandwiches for the freezer if you eat packed lunches regularly. Use firm slices of bread and spread with softened butter right to the edges. Wrap filled sandwiches in plastic freezer film to keep them separate, then pack in plastic freezer bags.

Use cheese, meat, fish or pate for the fillings and avoid hard-boiled eggs which can go rubbery, mayonnaise which curdles, and fresh salad which goes soggy. Keep sandwiches in the freezer for no longer than two months. You can let them thaw in their wrappings for 3 hours or so during the morning. Transport them in a rigid, plastic box to avoid damage.

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15:12:38 on 11/25/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Should we gut and scale a whole trout before putting it into the freezer?

Yes, it is best to gut fresh fish before freezing. Wash and scale the fish, then gut it and wash the cavity thoroughly under running water. Pat the fish dry and wrap it in foil then place in a sealed strong plastic bag and freeze. Whole freshwater and oily fish can be stored for two months while white ocean fish can be stored for two to three months.

Whole fish are best when thawed slowly to retain their moisture and texture. Fish steaks and fillets are best thawed too, but they may be cooked from frozen if you increase the cooking time by a third.

15:05:06 on 11/25/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

My butcher is offering half a lamb at a bargain price - but will it fit into the freezer?

Meat sold at a good discount is worth having, and half a lamb will fit into a small freezer. Ask your butcher to cut the lamb into joints, trimming off the excess fat and removing bones where possible as these take up valuable space.

It is essential to wrap meat well to prevent the fat from turning rancid. Double-wrap the meat using some heavy-duty plastic bags and separate the chops and steaks with layers of plastic freezer film.

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21:55:18 on 11/24/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Do cream and yoghurt freeze?

The higher the fat content of the cream, the better it will freeze. Clotted, rich and thickened cream all freeze well and keep for three months. Half-whip the cream before freezing or it will separate on thawing. Adding 1 teaspoon of sugar to 150 ml of whipped cream before freezing will stabilize it. Fresh cream freezes satisfactorily, to use in cooking after thawing. Fruit-flavored yoghurts and plain yoghurt mixed with honey also freeze well.

21:49:00 on 11/24/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is it really necessary to blanch vegetables before freezing?

To preserve the color, flavor, texture and nutritional content of vegetables, you must blanch them before freezing. Fresh vegetables contain natural enzymes which help them to grow and ripen. Blanching vegetables by plunging them briefly into boiling water then into cold will inhibits the action of these enzymes, which would otherwise cause deterioration during storage in the freezer.

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10:31:44 on 11/24/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Once defrosted, why we should not refreeze food?

Freezing will prevent bacteria from multiplying but it does not destroy them. Once frozen food has been thawed, the bacteria may multiply with renewed energy. If food is frozen and thawed repeatedly, bacteria could reach dangerous levels.

You can refreeze food safely if it has been cooked after thawing. However, freezing also results in some loss of moisture and if food is repeatedly frozen and thawed, it will become unpleasantly dry. Fibrous food like meat also loses its texture as it thaws, and will become flabby if it is refrozen and thawed again, say in a casserole.

11:27:48 on 11/23/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How should fruits be frozen?

Fruits for freezing must be just ripe, and of prime quality. Wash them only if necessary and dry well. Do not freeze fruit in contact with all metal, including foil.

Soft fruit such as blackberries, black and redcurrant, gooseberries and raspberries are best frozen separately on trays lined with baking paper as they will keep better and defrost easily. When solid, pack them into freezer bags or boxes. Berries can also be packed with sugar before freezing so that, as it thaws, the fruit and sugar combine to become a syrup. Sprinkle 125 g (1/2 cup) of sugar over each 500 g of fruit before freezing.

Apples, peaches, pears and apricots tend to turn brown as they thaw, so freeze them in an acidulated syrup made from 1 liter of water, 500 g (2 cups) of sugar, and the juice of 1 lemon. Allow 300 ml of sugar syrup for each 700 g of fruit.

Whole bananas will turn brown in the freezer; mash them with lemon juice before freezing and defrost to use in cooking.

09:38:50 on 11/23/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What to do when the freezer breaks down, or when there is a power outage?

Check first to see if the plug has been pulled out, a fuse has blown or the thermostat has been misset before calling for maintenance. And keep the freezer door closed while you check. If there has been a power cut, food remains solid and safe for about 16-24 hours, providing the door has not been opened.

If you have advance notice of a cut in power, pack out any gaps in the freezer with crumpled newspaper and do not open the door during the cut, or for 2 hours afterwards. Food that is still solid with ice crystals is safe to eat. Foods that have defrosted may be cooked and eaten, but ice cream or foods that contain cream are best thrown away, as are commercially packaged meals near their expiry date.

If your freezer does break down and some of the contents deteriorate, leaving an unpleasant smell, wipe out the inside of the freezer with warm water to which you have added a little bicarbonate of soda or some vinegar or vanilla essence. In addition, a small dish of bicarbonate of soda placed in the refrigerator will help to absorb the smell of strong foods.

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07:13:35 on 11/23/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What containers and wrappings are best for freezing food?

Heavyweight plastic or polythene bags are the cheapest and most effective wrappers because they take various shapes of food without creating too many air pockets.

The freezer atmosphere is very drying and direct contact with the icy air may cause 'freezer burn' (dry discoloured patches), so most foods need to be carefully wrapped before freezing. Whatever airtight container you use. It must be robust enough to withstand some rough handling in the freezer.

Pour liquids into plastic freezer bags set in rectangular containers to freeze. Leave 2.5 cm between the top of the liquid and the container to allow for expansion. Once solid, lift the freezer bags out of the containers (which allows the containers to be used elsewhere). The frozen bags of liquid can then be stacked neatly to save space.

Label frozen foods immediately with the contents and the date. Keep a record of what is in the freezer so that you remember what is there and can plan to use the food systematically in date order.

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06:36:52 on 11/23/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is it more economical to keep the freezer full at all times?

Yes, a full freezer retains more cold when the door is opened. With a half-empty freezer, a lot of cold air will escape whenever the door is opened and more energy is than needed to bring the freezer back down to the right temperature.

Try to freeze small quantities of food at a time, separated out. Once frozen, pack them together closely. Remember to rotate food regularly and label it, or what you lose in wasted food will cancel out what you gain in energy savings.

06:38:48 on 11/22/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why is it necessary to freeze food quickly and thaw it slowly?

The quicker a food is frozen, the smaller the ice crystals that will form. Large ice crystals damage the cell walls of food so that when it is thawed, liquid is lost, including soluble nutrients. Meat especially loses so much moisture that it will be dry when cooked if frozen too slowly. This is why many freezers contain a fast-freeze compartment for the initial freezing process.

Thawing, however, should take place as slowly as possible since rapid thawing also leads to a loss of moisture and dry, tasteless food.

05:28:42 on 11/22/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Which is the most useful machine for everyday domestic cooking, a food mixer or a food processor?

If a choice must be made, the food processor is more useful. Food processors are relatively lightweight and most of the functions are intergral to, or built into, the machine. Food mixers tend to be more cumbersome and their attachments take up much more space.

Food processors make light work of laborious tasks such as chopping, grating and slicing, and some machines also have juice extractors. They make excellent pastry, provided the ingredients are not processed for too long. They do not whisk egg whites well because they do not incorporate enough air, but some machines have a separate whisking attachment. Care needs to be exercised with some models when mincing raw meat so that it is minced, not pulped to mush.

Mixers are usually larger and are good for lengthy beating or kneading bread with the dough hook.

03:17:48 on 11/22/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is listeriosis, and is it really such a serious risk?

Listeriosis is a food-borne disease caused by a listeria bacterium, but it is very rare. Foods most at risk include pates, soft mold-ripened cheeses such as brie and camembert and blue cheeses, ready-to-eat chickens and soft-serve ice creams.

As listeria can multiply at temperatures below that found in many domestic refrigerators, susceptible food should not be stored for more than four days. Listeria is also fairly heat-resistant, so cooked foods should be reheated to piping hot. Local health authorities advise that pregnant women should avoid susceptible foods, and unpasteurized (or raw) milk and any cheese made from it.

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11:13:11 on 11/21/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is it safe to cut mold off food and eat the unaffected part?

No, because a small number of molds do produce potentially harmful toxins. It is preferable and desirable to minimize the chance of mold growing on food.

In general, any foods that show mold should be discarded. But some foods, such as cheese stored in the refrigerator, and opened jam stored in a cool, dry cupboard or pantry, may show some mold growth on the surface. In these cases, if this mold is removed with a generous safety margin, the remaining cheese or jam may still be safe to eat.

11:02:00 on 11/21/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What are the common sources of salmonella poisoning, and how can we protect our family?

The foods that are most commonly infected with the salmonella group of bacteria are meat, poultry and other protein foods. Symptoms usually appear in 12 to 48 hours and include tiredness, diarrhea, high fever, severe abdominal pain and vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Cooking, providing the center of the food reaches a temperature greater than 72oC, will destroy the salmonella bacteria. But as some of the bacteria reproduce, they produce toxins which will not be destroyed during cooking and which also cause food poisoning. This is why it is so important not to leave uncooked food lying around in the warm and often moist conditions in which the reproduction of the bacteria takes place.

Take chilled and frozen food home quickly from the shop and put it in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible. Store all other food in cool, dry conditions.

To minimize the risk of contamination, it is always wise to reject any eggs that have cracked or blemished shells.

10:44:11 on 11/21/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to organize the kitchen to avoid food poisoning?

To avoid contamination of food, store it safely and take care that it is
cooked thoroughly. There has been an increase in reported food poisoning cases
in the past decade. Possible causes range from the rise of giant food processing
plants, in which a single infection can spread widely, through to declining
cooking and hygiene skills in the home. To be safe, here are the golden rules to
follow:

  • Food should be stored in clean, dry, airtight containers, and raw and
    cooked foods kept separate.

  • Use separate boards when cutting, slicing, chopping or preparing raw and
    cooked foods.

  • Food should be cold or very hot, as bacteria multiply quickly at
    temperatures between 5o and 65oC.

  • Discard any food that is past its expiry date, smells unpleasant or tastes
    as if it may be 'off'. If you have doubts at all, get rid of it.

  • Make sure meat and poultry are fully defrosted before cooking.

  • When reheating food, make sure it is piping hot all the way through, and
    do not reheat it twice.

  • Always wash your hands before handling food.

  • Disinfect worktops, refrigerators and chopping boards often with an
    antibacterial cleaner.



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10:26:46 on 11/21/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is it safe to use foil for cooking and storing every kind of food?

In general, yes, perfectly safe. But acid in food can eat into foil, so if you are wrapping, say, a fruit cake laced with spirits, oiling the foil or wrapping the food in greaseproof paper first will prevent this. All food for freezing should be wrapped tightly in foil so it is completely airtight.

Foil should not be used in the microwave, but is fine for using in conventional ovens, when you can put either side, matt or shiny, next to the food. Foil can be used to protect food from burning: for instance, place a piece over the head and tail of a fish, or the breast of a bird, while it is being baked or roasted. If you are wrapping food in foil for cooking, seal the parcel tightly but leave it loose to allow the air inside to circulate and cook the food evenly. And do not stretch foil tight across the top of a dish: put a pleat in the top to allow for expansion.

11:19:03 on 11/20/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Pastry turns out very dense when made with wholemeal flour. Is there anything that could be done to make the texture lighter?

The fiber and bran in wholemeal flour, which add a nutty flavor to short crust pastry, also make it absorb more water, which produces a closer texture than pastry made with plain white flour. By combining white flour with wholemeal, either half and half or up to a quarter white and three-quarters wholemeal, you retain the wholemeal flavor but the dough is more manageable and easier to roll out.

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10:25:39 on 11/20/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Which type of flour should we choose for home baking?

Plain flour can be used for short crust pastry, sauces and gravies which do not need a rising agent. Self-raising flour includes baking powder, and is best for most cakes, buns, scones and puddings. It gives a better lift than a homemade mix of plain flour and baking powder, though that is suitable for mixes with eggs or egg whites, which encourage rising.

Gluten is a protein in flour that develops and becomes more elastic as the dough is kneaded. Strong flour has a large amount of protein, needed for pasta and bread making.

Use sponge or continental flour, which has less gluten, for light cakes and pastries. Sponges, cakes and scones made with soft, fine flour have a more delicate texture.

07:21:49 on 11/20/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the difference between the various white and brown flours?

Wheat flours are defined by the percentage of bran (the fibrous skin) and wheatgerm (the nutritious embryo of the wheat kernel) that remain after grains of wheat are milled. But most of what is left after grinding is the starchy endosperm, or inside of the wheat.

* Wholemeal flour is made from the whole grain, with nothing added to it or taken away.
* White flour has about 75-80 percent of the wheat grain.
* Malt flour has been fortified with malted grains which have been sprouted.

Other wheat flours include atta, bakers flour, continental flour, gluten flour, sponge flour and unbleached flour. Several other cereals, roots and seeds are milled for flour, such as barley, besan, buckwheat, corn, oat, rice, rye and soy.

12:24:51 on 11/19/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What material should a flan dish be made of for the best results?

A dish which heats up rapidly is best for making flans. Short crust pastry needs a quick burst of heat so the starch grains in the flour will swell and then burst and absorb the melting fat in the pastry mixture. Unless the fat is absorbed quickly the pastry will be limp and soggy. This is also true of pastry which is to be baked blind before being filled.

Metal is a better conductor of heat than ovenproof china or glass, and pastry will cook more quickly in a flan tin or in a metal ring placed on a baking tray. A fluted flan tin with a loose base is easier to use than a fluted ring, which must be put on a baking tray.

China flan dishes are attractive but are not so good for cooking. To make them more effective, put them on a baking tray which has been preheated in a hot oven.

11:39:52 on 11/19/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Some restaurant serves a delicious dessert of fruit flambe, Can we make this at home?

Yes, flambeed food makes a spectacular show and is quite simple to prepare at home. To ensure ignition, heat the spirit before you light it, just long enough to warm it, but not so long that it allows the alcohol to evaporate. Keep your face and hair well away from the pan while you are setting fire to the alcohol and make sure that there is nothing else nearby or above that can catch fire. With practice, and a good spirit burner, you can even flambe the fruit in front of your guests at the table.

11:14:45 on 11/19/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is rouille and can we make it ourselves?

Rouille is a rust-colored sauce made with cayenne pepper, garlic and breadcrumbs blended with olive oil and fish stock. Spoon it into the soup to thicken it or spread it on toast and serve separately.

To make your own rouille, sweat one or two crushed garlic cloves in a little olive oil, then add about 1/3 cup of crumbled white bread and 100 ml of the fish soup and reduce it all to a thick smooth pulp. Using a balloon whisk, beat in 100 ml of olive oil a little at a time, and season with salt, pepper and cayenne.

11:53:05 on 11/18/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

When making bouillabaisse, the bream and flathead used often disintegrate. Is there other fish that might be more suitable?

The classic recipe for bouillabaisse from Marseilles in the south of France uses local fish, many of which cannot be found outside the Mediterranean. But you can make a variation without them. The secret is to prepare a rich broth first with trimmings from the fish you buy. Add the fish for the last 5-8 minutes only, to ensure that they will not overcook and disintegrate.

Firm-textured fish such as eel, red emperor, gurnard, jewfish, John Dory, mackerel, morwong or mullet are best, but any similar white or oily fish that are in season will do. It is traditional to leave the fish on the bone as this helps to keep the flesh intact during cooking and also improves the flavor. For extra interest, you could also include squid, and shellfish such as mussels, shrimps or scallops.

10:07:02 on 11/17/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Fish is one of the easiest things to cook in the microwave. Which cuts of the fish are the most suitable, and how do we go about cooking them?

Fish is excellent when cooked in the microwave, retaining its texture and shape as well as its natural juices. Because it is cooked with no or little added liquid, there is minimal loss of nutrients.

Fish steaks and fillets are most suitable to cook in the microwave, because they cook quickly and evenly, but whole fish such as whiting and trout weighing up to 500 g are suitable, as are small whole fish such as sardines and pilchards. Microwaved white fish can look bland, but can be made more appetizing by basting with soy or other flavored sauces.

To microwave whole fish, slash the skin in two or three places on both sides so it does not burst during cooking. Then place the fish in a microwave dish and shield the head and tail with small strips of foil. Steaks should be laid in a round dish with their thinner ends facing inwards. Fillets should be placed in a single layer, folding the thinner ends underneath so they do not overcook. Whole or cut, all fish should be covered with a microwave-safe top before cooking and turned over halfway through.

09:19:25 on 11/17/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Grilled fish is healthy, and what is the best way to cook it so it stays moist?

Grilled fish is not only healthy, it is also very quick and easy to cook. Chopped fresh herbs, a couple of tablespoons of virgin olive oil and plenty of coarsely ground black pepper will greatly enhance the flavor - especially if you leave the fish to marinate in these ingredients for half an hour or so before cooking. Whole oily fish such as mackerel, sardines and trout are easy to grill because their natural oils baste the fish and keep it moist.

Thick, firm-textured fish fillets and steaks, from fish such as salmon, rainbow trout, swordfish and tuna, can also be grilled in the grill pan or in a ridged, cast-iron frying pan. Do not put them on the grill rack as they may break up.

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08:26:26 on 11/17/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is 'pan-dressed' fish?

'Pan-dressed' simply means that the fish has been trimmed, scaled, gutted, boned or filleted and is ready to go straight into the pan in the recipe of your choice. This type of preparation is common in quality fish shops and fish markets. If you choose a whole fish, most fish shops will do all of these things for you, and should do them free of charge, but they may need notice at busy times. And you might need to explain your recipe because certain dishes required skinning as well as filleting.

If you ask your retailer to bone a fish, remember to ask for the bones to use for stock as these will not always be included automatically.

14:16:30 on 11/16/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the difference between sole and flounder?

There are many species of sole and flounder, all flat fish with tiny scales and a white belly. The newly hatched fish have one eye symmetrically on each side of the head. When they grow to 2 cm long, one eye begins to move towards the top of the head, then crosses to the other side to lie adjacent to the other eye. As this happens, the pigment on the opposite side becomes lighter and turns almost white.

Both sole and flounder have a gill cover with another bone in front of it. In a sole these are joined together; in a flounder they are separate and you can insert your fingernail between them.

Both varieties of fish have white, soft flesh with a very fine flake, on a fine-boned skeleton. In most recipes, whether they are used whole or as fillets, sole and flounder are interchangable.

10:26:33 on 11/16/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Which is the best fish to choose for steaming, and what's the best way to cook it in a steamer?

Any fish fillet, steak or small whole fish can be steamed - and this is the best way to retain all the natural goodness. Add richness of flavor by using a well-flavored fish stock or dry white wine instead of plain water in the steamer, and rest the fish on a bed of herbs or seaweed.

Bring the liquid to the boil then turn the heat down to simmering point. Lay the fish in the top of the steamer, making sure they do not overlap or they will not cook evenly, place it over the liquid and cover. Steaming times vary with the size and quantity of fish: allow 5-8 minutes for fillets, 10-15 minutes for steaks and whole fish.

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03:25:26 on 11/16/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What are the recommendation for non-bony fish?

Fillets of ling and ocean perch have no small bones that would bother children, only large bones that can be easily seen and removed before cooking. Flatfish, such as fillets of flounder and sole, also have no small bones but have sweet flesh that appeals to children. Fillets of coral trout are also suitable.

Putting the fish into a potato-topped pie is a good idea because you can check for bones when skinning and flaking it. Encasing boned fish in pastry is another option; try cutting the pastry into a fish shape and marking scales on it. Suitable fish are bream or snapper fillets; salmon is particularly good as the rich color contrasts well with the pastry.

08:54:15 on 11/15/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to determine if a fish is ready to serve? We always seem to either undercook or overcook it.

One of the worst things you can do to fish is to overcook it, and as it cooks very quickly it needs to be carefully watched. Properly cooked fish is moist, tender to the bite and full of flavor. Test the fish when it begins to look opaque. Gently prod it with the prongs of a fork: when the flesh will flake easily, the fish is done.

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06:23:53 on 11/15/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is it necessary to cook fish the same day it is bought?

All fishes are highly perishable, especially once they have been cut. It is best to buy fish whole and have the retailer clean or fillet it while you wait, or prepare it yourself just before cooking. Generally, fish is best eaten within 24 hours of purchase. Oily fish go off more quickly than white fish because their oils oxidize, causing the flesh to go rancid. Fish with their guts intact also deteriorate quickly, so gut fish before storing.

To store fish, remove it from its wrappings, rinse it under cold running water and pat it dry. Then rewrap the fish loosely in a sheet of aluminum foil or a clean plastic food storage bag and store it in the coldest part of the refrigerator.

04:16:44 on 11/15/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the difference between white fish and oily fish?

White fish are saltwater fish with oil concentrated mainly in the liver. The two main groups are the cod family, which includes ocean perch, gurnard, ling and whiting as well as cod; and the flatfish family of flounder and sole. Other white fish are barramundi, flathead, garfish, John Dory, parrot fish, red emperor and red mullet, shark, sea bream (or morwong) and snapper.

The oil in oily fish is distributed throughout their flesh. This makes them more nutritious than white fish, but higher in kilojoules. Salt-water oily fish include anchovies, herrings, grey mullet, sardines, pilchards and tuna, while salmon and trout are oily freshwater fish.

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11:51:11 on 11/14/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

When buying fish, what are the signs of freshness?

If the fish is whole, there are several things to look for: the eyes should be clear and bright, the scales should be shiny, the gills should be a healthy-looking pink or red and the flesh should feel firm and resilient to the touch. Fillets and steaks should also be firm and moist, and the flesh should have a fresh, translucent color.

A fresh, clean smell is another good sign. Fresh fish should not in fact smell 'fishy', but saltwater fish should smell of the sea.

10:29:14 on 11/14/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

If a recipe calls for filo pastry, can we use flaky pastry or puff pastry in the dish instead?

Not really. Even though filo pastry (also called phyllo or strudel pastry), flaky pastry and puff pastry are all made with the same basic ingredients of fat, flour and water, the proportion of fat to flour varies and this affects the amount of water used to form the dough and the type of pastry that results. If you use either flaky or puff pastry, both of which are sturdy, instead of the gossamer-thin sheets of filo, the results - although they may be satisfactory - will be completely different in texture.

Filo pastry can be made at home but it takes a great deal of time to beat, stretch, pull and roll the pastry into the characteristic sheets so thin you can read through them. It is much easier to buy it ready-made, fresh or frozen, either from supermarkets or from delicatessens.

Ready-made filo pastry comes in very thin leaves of varying sizes. Thaw frozen filo pastry thoroughly according to the instructions on the packet and let it come to room temperature in its box before you try to use it. The sheets should then be brushed with butter or oil before they are baked to make the pastry layers light and crisp.

09:32:20 on 11/14/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is there a difference between green and dark purple figs?

Figs are grown mainly in Greece and Turkey as well as in Australia. Those seen most often have green to purplish-black skins, but they can also be red or yellow, according to the variety. Some figs are much sweeter and more aromatic than others. Ripe figs, with a powdery, white bloom on the surface, have plump, soft flesh and are eaten whole, skin and all. They are perishable and will only keep for a day or two. Do not buy figs that give off a sour odor.

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10:49:14 on 11/13/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to cook fennel? Other than fish, does it go with anything else?

Florence fennel, or fennel bulb, does not have to be cooked; it may be thinly sliced and eaten raw, combined with some remoulade sauce, or tossed with sliced avocado, watercress and French dressing. To prevent cut fennel from turning brown at the edges, put the slices in cold water acidulated with a little lemon juice until it is cooked.

Thin slices of fennel are delicious grilled and added to a warm mixed salad of Mediterranean vegetables. Fennel heads can be quartered and cooked in a sauce, or steamed, poached or braised. If there are any fresh leaves attached to the bulb, reserve them to use as a garnish or toss with salad leaves.

Fennel's mild aniseed flavor matches poultry as well as fish.

09:44:00 on 11/13/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is there any difference between felafel and falafel?

The answer is yes and no. Felafel are little patties made from chickpeas, burghul, garlic, lemon juice and spices. The mixture can be rolled into small balls with clean, cool hands, but a special utensil is used by Middle East cooks to shape them and slip them into the deep hot oil to cook.

The patties are used in a very popular 'street food' in the Middle East where, although an Arab invention, it is also known as an Israeli hot dog! The patties are tucked into halves of pita pocket bread or rolled up in flat warm pita bread, topped with tomato, lettuce and tabbouleh, then drizzled with harissa or savory tahini sauce. This whole assembled package is also known as falafel.

The spelling, however, appears to be interchangable for both the patties and the pita bread package. And they are one of the healthiest and most noufishing fast foods served today.

08:11:09 on 11/13/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Are some cooking fats healthier to use than others?

The average diet contains 40 percent fat, of which a large percentage is saturated. It is now recommended that not only should we reduce our intake of fat, we should aim to replace saturated fats with healthier fats known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. One good way to do this is to use olive, canola or peanut oil instead of butter for cooking.

Most vegetable oils are high in polyunsaturates, while olive, canola (also called rapeseed) and peanut oils are high in monounsaturates. Both these types of fats are considered healthier than saturated fats. Coconut and palm oils are high in saturated fats.

Today, margarine spreads are usually made with mono or polyunsaturated vegetable oils, which make them lower in saturated fat than butter. However, some margarines, particularly the harder block varieties, may have animal fats added, so if reducing your cholesterol and saturated fat intake is a concern, read the labels carefully before use.

12:06:30 on 11/12/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How long can meat dripping be kept in the fridge?

Like many fats, dripping will turn rancid if it is kept for too long. If you collect the dripping fat from a roast, pour it into a suitable glass or china container; do not use plastic. Allow it to cool, then cover and put it into a refrigerator. Fresh dripping may be kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks and may be frozen for up to six months.

Do not add the dripping taken from one roast to that from another. It will spoil the taste. Pour the second lot into a clean container, label it and store as before: this prevents any cross contamination and lets you keep track of how old the dripping is so there is less danger of keeping it for too long.

11:26:46 on 11/12/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Which fat has the finest flavor?

Fats make many foods more palatable because they add flavor, texture, a smooth richness and variety. Goose and duck fat collected from a roasting bird will enrich any roast or fried dish, especially roast potatoes. Chicken fat is popular in traditional Jewish dishes. Beef dripping will add extra flavor when roasting meat or making Yorkshire pudding. Lamb dripping has a very strong flavor and may leave a noticeable and undesirable aftertaste when it is used to fry other foods.

Lard is the rendered version of pork fat; however, unrendered pork fat has a better flavor and is used in charcuterie, pates and for barding roast meat.

Different brands of butter, margarine and ghee have their own flavor: use the one you like best. Copha is a hard white fat made from coconut oil. It is useful for curries and confectionery.

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09:20:11 on 11/12/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How should eggs be stored and how long will they keep?

Eggs are best stored in the refrigerator as their freshness deteriorates at the room temperatures that are found in most kitchens. Store them pointed-end downwards to help prevent breakage and minimize dehydration. Eggs are porous and absorb strong flavors and odors, so store them in their carton away from strong-smelling foods.

Eggs should be eaten within two weeks of purchase (check the expiry dates) and should be removed from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before they are used.

Hard boiled eggs can be stored in the refrigerator and used within two days. Egg yolks placed in a container and covered with water to prevent them from drying out will keep in the refrigerator for up to two days. Egg whites should be put in a covered container and will also keep well for up to two days.

Eggs yolks can be frozen, but they must be creamed lightly with a little salt or sugar (1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt or sugar per two yolks) before being frozen in a covered, rigid container. They will keep for up to three months. The addition of salt or sugar prevents the yolks from thickening and becoming hard.

To freeze egg whites, place them in a rigid container, cover and keep for up to six months. Egg whites can also be frozen in ice cube trays covered with foil. When hard, remove the cubes from the tray and store in a freezer bag.

Once any frozen eggs have been thawed, use them on the same day and do not re-freeze them. If you have frozen egg whites and cannot remember how many there were, you can weigh them. For use in recipes calculate that 30 g of egg white equals that of one egg.

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12:07:28 on 11/11/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How can we boil an egg without it cracking in the saucepan?

Do not boil the egg, but simmer it. The egg should be at room temperature and the water should be gently simmering as you immerse the egg. Another precaution is to pierce the top of the rounded end with a needle before you put the egg in to simmer. To save an egg, should it crack, quickly add 1 or 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the cooking water. This should seal the shell and stop the white from leaking out.

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10:40:26 on 11/11/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the best way to whisk egg whites?

Egg whites can be whisked to as much as eight times their volume. It helps considerably if they are at room temperature and only a few days old. Stale whites will never whisk properly. Egg whites should always be whisked just before you want to use them otherwise they will begin to collapse and weep very quickly. Adding a pinch of salt or cream of tartar at the start of whisking will help to make the whisked whites stiff.

A balloon whisk and a copper bowl will produce the stiffest egg whites. The copper appears to have an effect on the egg whites, making the beaten foam more stable.

If you do not have a copper bowl, use stainless steel, glass or china and an electric mixer. Whatever utensil you use to whisk the egg white, it must be free from grease and traces of egg yolk.

06:29:41 on 11/11/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to stop scrambled eggs from sticking to the pan?

First melt a small pat of butter in the pan to coat the base. Then pour in the eggs and cook very gently and slowly, stirring all the time. Add a knob of buttter or a little cream or milk to the eggs at the end of cooking to reduce the temperature and keep the eggs moist. Take the eggs off the heat when they are still a little runny.

11:19:47 on 11/10/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is there any way to test an egg for freshness?

An easy way to test for freshness is to put an egg in a bowl of water. If it sinks and lies on its side, it is fresh. If it floats with its rounded end on the sufrace of the water, it is stale. If an egg floats in the middle of the water with its rounded end up, it is not stale but it is probably two or three weeks old. Fresh eggs have thick whites that hold the yolks firmly in place.

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06:28:57 on 11/10/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What are the different sizes of eggs and how are they best used?

Normally, eggs are graded according to the size and weight. They range from 500 g to 800 g cartons. The largest carton contains 12 eggs weighing approximately 67 g each. The smallest carton contain eggs weighing approximately 42 g each. The largest eggs are good for breakfast dishes, sponges and souffles. Small eggs are good for glazing and pastry making.

White or brown shells make no difference. The color merely depends on the breed of the hen that has laid the egg.

04:24:04 on 11/10/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Sometimes we see rather pale and elongated eggplant. Can these be used in the same way as the dark purple ones?

Yes, they can. Throughout the world, outdoor-grown eggplant come in a wide range of sizes and colors. The choice includes tiny white "pea eggplant", larger round ones in green, yellow, white or purple, and slender, elongated shapes in shades of violet, often streaked with cream or pale green. Whatever their shape and color, always look for unblemished skin, a firm texture and a fresh green calix at the stem.

09:30:54 on 11/09/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Many children find the tough skin of eggplant indigestible. Can we peel them before cooking?

Eggplant sliced for grilling tends to fall apart without the skins, but it can be peeled for cutting into cubes and adding to stews. Peeled slices make excellent fritters, the flesh soft within a crisp batter coating. For a Mediterranean dip, grill or roast the vegetable until the skin blisters and can be peeled off, then mash the flesh to a cream with plenty of olive oil, lemon juice and crushed garlic, and season to taste. Serve with lots of fresh pita bread or slices of Turkish pide.

06:48:28 on 11/09/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do most recipes recommend salting eggplant slices for half an hour before cooking them? Is this always necessary?

Eggplant grown outdoor in warm climates develops bitter juices, which are drawn out by the salting process. This is sometimes referred to as disgorging. Many year-round eggplant sold are young vegetables and these probably won't be bitter, but the disgorging process does improve the texture of the cooked eggplant. However, it can leave the flesh rather salty, so rinsing is always advisable.

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03:12:22 on 11/09/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Eggplant seems to absorb an enormous quantity of oil. Is there any way to reduce this?

Instead of frying slices of eggplant, brush the slices with oil and either grill, turning to cook both sides or bake on a nonstick baking tray in a hot oven. By doing so, we can reduce the quantity of oil being absorbed by the eggplant.

09:36:53 on 11/08/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the secret of making feather-light dumplings?

Dumplings are made from suet crust pastry which is traditionally made with self-raising flour, finely chopped suet and cold water. However, suet crust pastry can now be much quicker and simpler to prepare by using a prepared suet mix readily available in most supermarkets. The suet mix is simply mixed with self-raising flour and cold water to make suet crust pastry for pies and roly-polys. It can also be used to prepare traditional steamed suet puddings and dumplings. Once the water has been added, it should be handled lightly to avoid developing the gluten in the flour, which will toughen the pastry.

Make the dumplings just before cooking them to ensure they are light. Always simmer them gently as rapid boiling will make them fall apart. A final tip is to serve them immediately while light and fluffy.

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08:17:42 on 11/07/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is it possible to cook Peking Duck at home or is it too complicated?

True Peking Duck uses a special species of bird bred in north China which is roasted and traditionally eaten in three courses. The crispy skin is served first with pancakes, then the meat is stir-fried as a main course and the bones are served next, in a soup. Such a meal is not easy to produce at home. However, it is easier and acceptable to serve the meat with the pancakes.

Whatever recipe you use, the duck must be dried thoroughly so the skin is crisp when cooked. The traditional way is to hang the duck in the sun for up to 12 hours. You can also suspend the duck in a warm place for 6-8 hours. A surer solution is to use a hair-dryer.

Turn the dryer to High and blast the duck all over, from a distance of about 15 cm to prevent any scorching. Dry the inside as well. When the skin begins to look parched, the duck is ready to roast. Thin, pale Mandarin pancakes are essential with Peking Duck. Available from Asian food stores, they can be reheated on High in a microwave for 1 minute.

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07:24:51 on 11/07/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Most restaurants serve half a duck per person and this seems a lot. How many people should one duck actually feed?

It does not feed as many people as we might expect from the size (compared with chicken or turkey) because of the high proportion of bone to meat on a duck. A 2kg duck will feed roughly only two to three people, a 2.5kg bird will feed four. You will need a larger duck, or preferably two smaller birds, to feed six to eight people.

02:38:22 on 11/07/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the best way to ensure duck skin becomes really crisp and the flesh is not too fatty?

Make sure the skin is thoroughly dry, as soggy duck skin will never become crisp. Leave the bird unwrapped in a cool and dry place for a couple of hours before roasting to let the skin dry out. Prick the well-dried skin all over with a skewer or fork, being very careful not to pierce the flesh, then rub the bird with fine sea salt.

Weight the duck and calculate the cooking time, allowing 40-50 minutes per kg. Stand it on a rack in a baking dish. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C and roast the bird for the first 30 minutes, then turn down the heat to 180 degrees C and complete the cooking. Drain the fat from the baking dish at 20-minute intervals so that it does not burn.

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13:47:11 on 11/06/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Does wild ducks have a different taste compared to an ordinary duck?

Wild ducks (such as mallard, teal and black duck) have a stronger, slightly oilier taste. They can range in size from less than 500 g to 5 kg but most are smaller than domesticated birds.

The mallard is the largest and should be basted while cooking as it can become dry. Black ducks are slightly smaller with dark, oily meat and each will serve one to two people. A teal is a tiny, nice-eating duck and serves only one person. Ordinary duck recipes can be used for wild ducks, but you will have to adjust the cooking times and temperatures as wild duck should be cooked rare. It is best roasted whole, at a high temperature of 200 degrees C. The bird should be roasted resting on each leg alternately, then on its back to ensure even cooking.

For a small duck such as teal, allow 12-20 minutes for the whole bird, depending on its size. For a larger mallard, allow 20-30 minutes for the whole bird. Do not prick a wild duck all over before roasting it, as they are leaner than domesticated ducks.

13:16:47 on 11/06/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Can we bone a duck in the same way as chicken to make it easier to carve at the dinner table?

Yes. Boning a duck takes a bit of time and patience. But it can be done in advance and the stuffing gives you the chance to add texture and flavor. You can bone the duck in the same way, as a chicken, or ask the shopkeeper to do it for you.

13:50:00 on 11/05/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the difference between a duck and duckling, and what are the most common types?

A duckling has not yet reached its second-feather stage, which occurs around the age of two months. Nearly every oven-ready duck you buy is really a duckling, as it is the practice to slaughter commercial birds at about six weeks old. The variations in oven-ready weight, 1.5-3.5 kg are related to differences in breeds rather than the level of maturity. Ducklings are available either fresh or frozen all the year round.

Nearly 85 percent of ducklings available locally are the white-feathered Peking ducks. The Chinese community value the Peking duck for its lean meat and skin that will crisp to a fine golden brown color.

As well as the massive production of Peking ducks, Aylesbury, Lincolnshire and Muscovy ducks are also available. The Lincolnshire is a lovely eating duck, as it has less fat. The Aylesbury and Muscovy are larger breeds of duck.

Few ducks of any kind are kept more than 12 months, except those that are used in France to produce foie gras de canard, a delicacy made from duck liver. It is as good as that made from goose liver.

Ducks are sometimes tricky to cook at home, and many people prefer to consider them a dining-out treat.

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10:40:00 on 11/05/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why are dried wild apricots so different from ordinary dried apricots and why are they so expensive?

Hunza apricots grow wild on trees in an area spanning Kashmir to Iran. They are left on the tree until completely dry and then harvested. As they are not treated with sulphur dioxide, they turn brown and have a deep and rich taste. Their relative scarcity makes them expensive. An alternative is to buy cheaper unsulphured, sun-dried apricots. Free from preservatives, they turn a chestnut brown, differing from the usual orange fruit.

11:32:00 on 11/04/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

What is the speedy way to rehydrate dried fruit if we have forgotten to soak it?

Rehydrating fruit in a bowl of cold water for at least an hour is easy and produces a good result. However, if you are rushed, put the fruit in a saucepan, cover it with boiling water and then soak it for 15 minutes before cooking normally. You can also cover dried fruit with water and heat it in a bowl in the microwave on Medium for about 5 minutes.

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11:31:00 on 11/03/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Do we need to wash dried fruit before using it?

It is advisable to wash any dried fruit that has been bought loose. Place it in a colander and rinse well under a cold, running tap. Dried fruit that is bought in sealed vacuum packs does not need to be washed.

03:30:00 on 11/03/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

How to prepare beans for a mixed bean salad?

Beans make very good salad for parties, whether you use just one variety or a mixture. Combine with fresh or frozen peas or beans. Try to choose different sizes and color. Cook the beans according to the time in the recipe. Garlic, celery and spices and woody herbs, such as bay and rosemary - can be added to the cooking water. Do not add salt but mix it into a dressing of olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice, with thin slices of red onion and garlic.

Gently toss the drained beans into the dressing while still hot, so they can absorb the flavor. Add the chopped fresh herbs, black pepper and other fresh ingredients when the beans are cold.

06:15:00 on 11/02/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Is all dried fruit produced in the same manner?

Most vine and tree fruits, including apples, apricots, grapes, mangoes, peaches and pears, are sun-dried or dehydrated. A few, such as prunes, are dried in oven. All are dehydrated to about 2030 per cent of their normal moisture content.

Using different kinds of grapes produces varied results. Currants are dried from a tiny, seedless black grape, sultanas are dried from a sweet, seedless green grape and raisins are dried from several types of grapes, muscat being the largest and sweetest. Store all of these dried fruits in airtight containers and they will keep for up to nine months in a cool and dry place.

Currants, dates, figs, raisins and sultanas are most commonly used in recipes in their dried form. Larger dried fruits, such as apples, apricots, peaches, prunes and pears, are rehydrated by stewing gently, while other dried fruits, such as mango and pawpaw are sometimes rehydrated beforehand by soaking in cold water for at least an hour.

Some fruits are freeze dried, such as apples; some are snap dried, such as pears. These are usually certified organic products. Similar results can he achieved in your own kitchen by using an electric dehydrator.

Australian dried fruits have an excellent quality, but once opened, the packets should be resealed, refrigerated and the fruit eaten within 14 days.

Some brands of vacuum-packed sultanas and raisins have vegetable oil added. Some dried fruits are packed in oxygen barrier pouches with oxygen absorbers enclosed. Sulphur dioxide is usually added to dried fruits like apples, apricots, mangoes, pawpaw, peaches and pears to preserve the color.

04:15:54 on 11/02/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Are the soaking and cooking instructions for dried peas and lentils the same as for beans?

No, on the whole the cooking process is simpler for peas and lentils. Only chickpeas (garbanzos) need soaking. Place them in cold water for 7-8 hours, then change the water. Fast-boil for 15 minutes and low-boil for 45 minutes.

Neither soaking nor fast-boiling is required for cooking the peas and lentils. They will require only low-boiling for the following times: blue boiler peas for 90 minutes; puy lentils for 30-35 minutes; split green or yellow peas for 25-30 minutes; brown lentils for 20-25 minutes; and split red lentils for 10-15 minutes.

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11:09:15 on 11/01/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Are canned beans as nutritious as dried ones, and which is more economical to use?

Canning does not reduce the nutritional value of beans but canned beans do cost considerably more than dried varieties. For example, 425 g of canned lima beans will give 250 g drained weight only, while 100 g of dried beans bulks up to the same weight after soaking and cooking.

Dried beans work out at less than a third of the price, but lima and some other beans require long cooking. The time and energy saved by using these beans canned may well justify the additional cost.

Whether you choose canned or dried, beans are a good source of protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates. They are low in fat and contain minerals as well as nearly all the vitamins we need.

09:48:01 on 11/01/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -

Why do some beans and lentils cook in far less time than is recommended on the pack?

The recommended cooking times often reflect the fact that beans and lentils used to be stored for long periods before being cooked. This made them very dry and hard. Packets now feature 'use-by' dates, so the dried beans and lentils may become tender in a shorter cooking time, especially if you follow these guidelines.

To low-boil beans, cook them at a boil that is low but continuous, not at a simmer. The loss of water in the saucepan through eveporation can be minimized by partially covering the pan with a lid, but as water is bing absorbed by the beans as well, you should be prepared to top up the level with boiling water when necessary.

The scum that rises to the surface during cooking is not dirt but a mixture of proteins and starches. It is best to skim it off, both for the sake of your pans and to prevent the liquid boiling over.

Do not salt dried beans during cooking, or cook them in a liquid containing salted meat for any longer than is necessary. This can toughen their skins and inhibit the swelling and softening of the beans. Acidity also impedes their cooking, so do not add tomato sauces or any other that are acidic until the beans are soft. Herbs and spices may be added early.

The acid to alkaline balance of local water can also affect cooking times. Keep testing the beans in the later stages of cooking.

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07:04:55 on 11/01/06 by Webmaster - Questions and Answers -