Richard Cornish

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Eat now: battered fish is at its most crisp as soon as it comes out of the deep fryer. Photo: Marina Oliphant

How do I keep my deep-fried fish crisp? When I drain them in a hot oven they become soggy. T. Lewis

Heading home with a paper parcel of hot fish and chips to feed the family, there's always the temptation to tear open the paper and get stuck in before the rest. Well, if you like crisp batter, you should go for it as soon as it comes out of the deep fryer. During frying, hot oil dries the batter around the fish forming a crust. Heat penetrating the crust causes the moisture to boil and steams the fish. When removed from the hot oil, the fish continues to cook and water vapour condenses on the inside of the batter, which can go from crisp to soft within minutes. Drain the fish, place it on paper towel to soak up the frying oil, then serve it straight away. Starting off with fish that has been patted down with paper towels and dusted with flour before battering will help achieve a crisper finish.

How do I slice really juicy peaches? B. Wilson

I know a stone-fruit grower who manages to produce peaches and nectarines that don't ooze a drop of juice because China is one of their big markets. ''Chinese people can't stand the thought of juice running down their hand,'' they tell me. Personally, I quite like it. A stone-fruit salad, dressed with the scantest amount of honey, a tiny squeeze of lime and the lightest sprinkling of finely chopped mint is a joy. Place ripe fruit in the freezer for about 20 minutes to firm up the flesh. This makes it easier to slice. And make sure the knife is sharp.

Can I use orange juice instead of lemon or lime juice when making ceviche? G. Pascoe

A perfect summer dish, ceviche is thinly sliced raw fish that has been ''cooked'' by marination in citrus juice with chilli, perhaps some diced French shallots and dressed with a little green herb. The acid in the citrus denatures the protein in the fish. Acid is measured by pH, which has a logarithmic scale. The lower the pH, the more acidic a substance is, and a drop of one point in pH means that something is 10 times as acidic. Lemon juice is about 2.2 pH, while orange juice has a pH of 3, making lemon juice eight times more acidic. So you're going to have to use more orange juice to get the same effect.

OK, Richard, so you don't prick sausages. Fair enough. But the big question is how do you stop the buggers from bending?Michael

Well, Michael, did we create a snagstorm a few weeks back when we said ''Never prick sausages!'' Australians may be apathetic when it comes to most issues but come out in public with a strong opinion on sausages and you risk being tarred and feathered. Natural sausage casings are made with animal gut that meanders around a sheep or pig's tummy. They are naturally curvaceous and a sausage in a natural casing will have a curve like a crescent moon. This is a good thing. Natural casings are slightly permeable and initially exude juices while cooking. As they are curved, it's not possible to cook every surface. The best way to cook them is to nestle them like spooning lovers and cook slowly over low heat. Sausages made with synthetic skins remain straight.

Letters

Here is one of the letters we received about the pricking of sausages. R. Abate writes: ''It was with amazement that I listened to my husband read out the answer to a question in Good Food about pricking sausages. Your comment regarding low-fat sausages was astounding, and telling people to avoid sausages if they don't want [to eat] fat. You have obviously been misinformed or have only ever eaten supermarket sausages. You should broaden your knowledge on this subject and attend a farmers' market, where you will find low-fat sausages that actually have taste.''

Send your queries to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au